December 23, 2016 – Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Emmanuel. God-with-us. These words are the start of the most radical and unconventional religion. Truly, think about it. We Christians fully believe that God, the divine, almighty, eternal God, became human…..? What prior religious tradition does that fit into? What group of people would that even make sense to? Gods don’t become human. Humans might strive for godhood or perhaps have godlike qualities, but gods and men are two fundamentally different things.

Until Emmanuel. The Incarnation of Jesus is a mystery of mysteries that we are still unfolding and will continue to ponder until Jesus returns again. Think back to our very first antiphon. Jesus, O Wisdom, the Word, is God who existed before the world began and indeed is outside of our concept of time. This same Jesus became a human, born of a woman. He came as the smallest and weakest of all of us, the new shoot from the root of Jesse in the early spring. He heralds the radiant dawn of a new day, a new order of creation. Jesus lived in a historical place and occupied a specific period of time. He walked, talked, ate, worked, celebrated and sorrowed with people every day. Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.

Jesus is the overabundance of God’s love for His people. The Jewish people had been longing for a savior. We have united our longing with theirs through these antiphons. God fulfilled His promises in an unimaginable way. Instead of simply sending a mighty leader as the majority of Jews expected, God Himself came to save His people.

God continues in His generosity and overabundance. Jesus didn’t simply save the nations from the slavery of sin and death. He also gifted us with His very Body and Blood so that we might continue to be united in communion with Him and one another. He went even further than that. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promised that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, would come down upon the apostles and remain with them.

God-with-us isn’t just a historical event. Emmanuel isn’t only in the manger.

Jesus, Emmanuel, is the here and now. Even as we anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, do not be fooled into thinking that He isn’t born anew each time you invite Him into your heart.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.

December 22, 2016 – Unity

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Today’s antiphon is particularly insightful for our world today. We are recognizing that Jesus is King of all nations. He is not king over some nations or peoples. Nor is He king over a special selection of people, particularly those who agree with our understanding of Jesus or our worldly perspective. If we are to shout this antiphon as it is intended (today even gets an exclamation point at the end of it), then we are recognizing the universality of Jesus as King of all nations, of all peoples.

This antiphon was especially important for the early Church because of the divide that existed between the Jewish people and the Gentiles (basically everyone who wasn’t a Jew). There were many laws and customs that restricted or even forbid contact between the two groups, mostly imposed by the Jewish side of the equation. If Jesus is King of all nations, then that means that He is King over Jew and Gentile alike.

Think of our world today, particularly the political tensions that have arisen in America yes, but many other countries as well. Consider Syria and other war-torn countries where the mentality of “us vs. them” is literally killing people of every age every single day. Today’s antiphon reminds us that Jesus is both King and keystone, or cornerstone. Jesus is the King of unity. This unity is foundational, the cornerstone, of the Church. As members of Christ’s Church, this unity is supposed to course through our veins. We are called to see one another as men and women uniquely and specifically formed by God. There is no room for “us vs. them” when we recognize and love one another as images of God.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.

December 21, 2016 – Light

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.

In yesterday’s antiphon, the last line said “come and free the prisoners of darkness!” What could be a more beautiful description than a radiant dawn banishing the darkness of our lives.

We have walked from the kingship of David into a dark time in Israel’s history. The kingdom split, leaving 10 tribes in the north (the Kingdom of Israel) and 2 tribes in the south (the Kingdom of Judah). Even to this day, scholars are not sure what happened to the 10 tribes in the north. They know that the Assyrians came and conquered the northern kingdom, but there are minimal records, if any, about what happened to the people. In the south, the Kingdom of Judah was also conquered but by the Babylonians. These last two tribes are what the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, primarily follows. As you might have already guessed, the fate of the chosen people was pretty grim. It’s no wonder that they were looking for the Emmanuel, the Messiah

How appropriate that today, the darkest day of the year, is the day that we celebrate Jesus, the coming Light of the World – O Radiant Dawn.

Each of us have dark corners, places we are not proud of and would rather not others know about. In his Catholicism series, Bishop Robert Barron talks about the windshield of a car as similar to our lives. When we are driving in the dark with no light our windshield looks nearly spotless. It would be easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that perhaps we have no problem spots, no reason to evaluate how our lives are going. However, when we are driving toward the light we can see every imperfection, every problem, every area where we need to grow, change and transform.

What is beautiful about our God is that when we orient ourselves toward His light, it is not glaring or harsh. Rather, God’s light is full of love and splendor. Yes, we see the places where we fall short, but in the sight of God’s love and mercy we can see that there is a way forward. There is forgiveness, mercy and compassion. We are freed from our imprisonment to sin as we step forward into God’s glorious light.

*** Please feel free to share your experience, thoughts and offer support to one another in the comments, on Twitter with the #DailyGraces or on the Facebook pageDaily Graces.