Scooch In Closer

We have been so blessed to be with our families this Christmas. This is an uncertain time for many and plans continue shifting with each passing day. While Mary and Joseph were not battling a pandemic, they certainly knew something about plans changing, and then changing again, and again.

While at my parents home, my mom had put out a new nativity scene. It’s a unique set from my uncle who passed away this year. She had carefully placed each figure so they all could be seen and admired. It was clear that this set had a special place in the room and we were all drawn to it when we first got there.

Later on in the day, my mom came into the kitchen, laughing. “Someone went and rearranged the nativity. It’s ok though, I’ll fix it later.” I went to look at it and laughed myself. All her careful spacing was gone. Instead, there was a crush of figures and animals all vying for a place in the simple stable.

There was this energy about it. The animals were huddled together, for warmth? The wise men appeared to be more craning their necks for a better look instead of inclining them in reverence. The shepherd is scooched so close to Mary he almost looks like he’s touching her depending on the angle you approach from.

We left the nativity just like this for the duration of our stay. As we were getting ready to leave, I was thinking about what to write for a Christmas message for you all. Immediately, this thought about how this version, this vision of the nativity, is probably closer to the truth than the staged one. Imagine the shepherds, they heard the good news from the angels and were astonished. They rushed to Bethlehem. Do you really think they stood far outside the door, peeking in over one another’s shoulders? When the wise men came, did they send their gifts via messenger?

The visitors were compelled to come and see. In artwork up and down the centuries we see this scene depicted. There is a closeness, an intimacy, surrounding the Holy Family. That is what my kids captured in their nativity scene. Not only were the figures edging in as close as they could, but you as the viewer have to get closer to see into the action. “What’s happening? What are they all looking at? Why are they pressed in so close?”

As we journey in these last days to Christmas, I have to stop and wonder, which nativity scene am I participating in? Am I keeping Christ at a distance, even in this moment of the sweet little Christ-child? Am I only peeking in, not allowing myself to fully enter the mystery of my Savior coming to me? Or, am I walking in, sitting down next to Mary and looking into Jesus’s eyes? Am I coming to Christmas Mass with all the anticipation and excitement of the shepherds and wise men? Or, am I caught up in the amount of glitter my daughters’ dresses are going to leave on the pew and the cracker crumbs the little boys will sprinkle behind them?

This Christmas is, yet again, not what we would call “normal.” But Jesus is still coming. He is still waiting for you to scooch in closer, to come and see. This has not changed and will never change. I hope you are able to make it to Mass on Christmas Eve or Day. And when you go, I hope you spend some time with the nativity scene there. Take a few moments and really look, really participate. See Mary’s bent head, her eyes fixed on Jesus. See Joseph standing or sitting with them, protectively keeping watch over his precious family. See Jesus, the innocent child, come to save us all.

If you need a prayer to say when you spend time with the nativity , I’ll leave the lyrics to a lovely song by Rebecca St. James called “A Cradle Prayer.” Here is the link to the music if you would like to listen to it.

Jesus I love you my Lord my life
Where would I be without you
Here in the quiet, the still, the night
I am in awe of you

Trials may come and friends they may go What really matters is you my Lord
Beautiful Savior my God, my friend
I am in awe of you
Lord I am in awe of you

Why would you, Creator and King, come as a baby for all, for me?

I am wishing you a very Merry Christmas. One full of intimacy, even at a distance. One full of love and family, even if it’s through a window or screen. One full of Christ’s love, which is with you always.

Advent is Waiting

This phrase makes me think of the animated movie Atlantis. In order to convince Milo, the scrawny bookworm to take the plunge and go on an expedition to discover the lost city, the financial backer Preston Whitmore says to him, “Atlantis is waiting.” This phrase always gets me, the excitement and anticipation. I wish someone would come around to each of us before a big decision and whisper with that same enthusiasm, “_____ is waiting.”

Friends, Advent is waiting. It’s only a few days away. Are you ready? Am I ready? It’s too bad we don’t have a Preston Whitmore who organizes our whole life ahead of our decisions so that the answer is obvious. What we can do, however, is take these opportunities the Church regularly builds into the liturgical year. Advent is the perfect time to step back, slow down and build momentum in our spiritual life.

This year’s Advent Journals are officially here! There are two different journals, both in pdf format. One narrows your focus to the 4 Sundays of Advent. Each day of the week you read one of the readings, and at the end of the week there are a few reflections. On Fridays, I’ve offered a few key themes and images found in the readings and expanded on their importance. On Saturday, inspired by the overall themes of the Sunday, there is a reflection on one of the aspects of Jesus. The Homily Notes space from last year is still there and can be used for additional note taking. Also, and this is so exciting, I figured out the booklet printing issue from last year so there are 2 versions of this journal, one in Booklet Format and one that is A5 size. If you print the A5 size at home you will need to cut the pages down after printing. If you choose the booklet be sure you select “booklet” or “book fold” in your printer’s settings.

Keep in mind that this journal is preparing for the upcoming Sunday of Advent, so it starts this coming Monday Nov. 25!

The second journal is a repeat from last year. I love using Lectio Divina for Advent. I’ve updated the dates and Scripture verses but the rest of the journal is much the same from last year. The last page is still blank if you would rather select your own Scripture verses. I did not do a booklet format for this journal because of all the writing space so there is only one version of the Lectio journal.

Remember, these journals are totally FREE for you to print, so you can grab both and see which works best for you. Or maybe you will find both inspirational. I’d love to hear which you chose and why. Feel free to share this post with anyone and everyone. It is my Advent gift to all of you.

Daily Graces.

Crunchy Christians, Crunchy Christ [Special Post]

Dear Readers,

I was greatly inspired this weekend by the pastor at our church. Each week, he writes a “From the Pastor” for the bulletin. What follows is his message which I found to be bold, moving and above all, so true. I hope you do as well. We are so blessed to have Fr. Jeff as our shepherd!


Crunchy Christians, Crunchy Christ. Pastor's Reflections on Daily Graces Blog -
Coffee Granola by Migle via Flickr (2013), CC

Catholicism has to be the earthiest of Christian Churches. We keep our eyes on heaven, but there’s mud between our toes. We make water holy, then we sprinkle it over cats and dogs, gymnasiums and geraniums, cars, farms and football teams. We bless incense and then we waft its smoke over crowds and altars, above bread and wine, before crucifixes and religious practices. We pour oil upon heads and hands, spread it over brows, necks and other body parts. Bishops even spread it over altars. We bless palm leaves on Palm Sunday, and later make ashes of the for Ash Wednesday – then we smear them across our foreheads! We wear scapulars, carry rosaries, grasp medallions, touch icons and statues, dip hands in water, mark houses with chalk, add holy salt to holy water. We pour water into wine, burn charcoal with frankincense, bake bread with no yeast, make fires to light candles to dip into baptismal fonts. Then we deny ourselves food, sleep, chocolate and wine, money and whatever else – not because they are bad but because they are so good. We protect fetuses, parent orphans, feed the starving and pray with the feeble minded; we find life in the dying and we bless the dead.

Even our bodies are earthly instruments of worship. We kneel, we bow, we genuflected, we prostrate halfway or fully; we cross ourselves, then we cross our foreheads, lips and hearts. Priest bow their heads at the Holy Name, they raise their hands in prayer; they hold their hands over unconsecrated bread and wine, then they point towards the same bread and wine as it’s being consecrated by the Lord.

Most other Churches worship God in a more sanitary, ‘soulish’ manner. They commune using pasteurized grape juice with individual, disposable cups, while hundreds share the same cup at our Mass. While their souls attempt to leave their bodies behind in worship, we Crunchy Catholics drag our bodies kicking and screaming into the holy presence of God. They seek the Spirit of God in the Bible, and we find in those same words the Body and Blood of Christ dripping from every page of Holy Writ.

Catholicism is so crunchy! It snaps, crackles and pops with the products of harvest and rain and metal. What do we hope to accomplish with such a crunchy approach to God? After all, Jesus said, ‘Those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4.24). Does’t all this ‘touch and taste and smell and hear’ stuff distract us from the God-Who-Is-Spirit?

Such would be the case, but for one important historical reality: Christ himself became crunchy. Before the Incarnation, Jesus was God-Who-Is-Spirit. Then he entered our crunchy, squishy, earthy world. He said ‘I will be crunchy, too.’ By his Incarnation, Jesus made it clear that we will find heaven on earth. Our Crunchy Christ suffered the indignities of being jostled in a crowd, he felt the sweat upon his brow, he smelled wheat roasting naturally on the stalk in the hot summer fields in Palestine. He sanctified all water by his baptism, consecrated bread and wine in his Last Supper. He shed hot and holy tears upon rocky earth; His bleeding body smeared divine blood over the wood of the Cross – the same blood that fell upon his Roman executioners. Finally, wonderfully, he rose from the grave, making his crunchy body eternally spirit – never to die again.

If you wish to find Christ, you can’t leave your body behind. Remain crunchy. Your salvation is a lifelong journey of taking crunchy footsteps whereby God takes your daily experiences and makes them holy and ‘spirit.’ Join the fun – give yourself to God this year and see what crunchy adventures God has in store for you!


How rockin’ is my priest?!?! I hope you are uplifted by Fr. Jeff’s message and you have a renewed, super crunchy day.

Reposted with permission