December 24, 2016 – Silence

Words cannot describe how excited my children are for tomorrow. Their eyes are glowing and they are twitching and bouncing all over the house. While we aren’t experiencing many “Silent Nights”, their joyful energy is filling the house with special emphasis on our nativity scene.

Advent Prayer Reflections - Christmas Eve.
Traveling Mary and Joseph – Fontanini Nativity set. CC Kate Taliaferro 2016.

Last year for Christmas Ben gave me a “traveling” Mary and Joseph. Mary is pregnant and sitting on the donkey while Joseph walks beside her. I love the realism. Mary looks exhausted and is barefoot. Joseph also looks weary but still shows the way. They have been traveling to the manger scene since we set up the nativity. We put up the the more traditionally posed Mary and Joseph along with Baby Jesus and the kids know that today Mary and Joseph will finally arrive at the stable. At first, they kept asking “Where are the real Mary and Joseph? The ones who sit by Jesus?” It was interesting to see how even at 5 and 4 years old they already have impressed in their minds the image of the Holy Family peacefully sitting in the stable.

This got me thinking about our past 4 weeks of Advent prayer experiences. We exposed ourselves to a variety of prayer forms, reflections and methods. Prayer is so many things! It is preparation and petition. It is reflection and listening. Prayer has the power to transform and stabilize. Ideally, prayer is our relationship with our God.

Look at Mary and Joseph on their journey. Because of their relationship with God they were open to His divine presence working in their lives. When the angel came to both of them (Mary at the Annunciation and Joseph in his dream) they were given the opportunity to say “yes” to God’s Will for their lives. They continued to say yes each day that followed, all the way to this day, the day before the Day.

We, too, have been preparing our hearts and minds this Advent to welcome the Christ child. We have shouted with John the Baptist, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” and we have quietly offered our own yes to God’s Will. For today, I’d encourage you to spend your 3 minutes in silent union with the Holy Family. Spend your time in silence, finding the tension between peaceful trust and anxious anticipation that Mary and Joseph must have felt on this morning.

It is the last day of travel and unbeknownst to them, the last day of Mary’s pregnancy. They probably shared their breakfast together and I would bet they prayed together. Ahead of the them the road was probably becoming crowded and noisy. They may have been worried about where they would stay that night. Would today be the day their precious baby, God’s son, would be born?

In the midst of all the excitement, noise and celebration today brings, allow yourself a few minutes to be united with Mary and Joseph as they awaited the coming of their Savior, their son.

*** 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 9, 2016 -Waiting Well

I absolutely love this picture and message. Though this is my fourth pregnancy, I have only been pregnant during Advent one other time (with John) and that was early in the pregnancy. This time around, I’m now almost 34 weeks along (anything 38 weeks and beyond is considered full term) I’m feeling much more attune to what Mary may have been going through during this same time.

Mary must have been thrilled with how things turned out for her. Not only was she not stoned or outcast from her community (definitely a plus), but her husband Joseph choose not to divorce her and still took her into his home (double bonus). Things were going well. Then, at some point during the pregnancy, a census is ordered. Because she was now Joseph’s wife, she had to travel with him to his family’s town of Bethlehem. Remember that journey she took to visit Elizabeth (approximately 80 miles) while sick and exhausted? Now she had to make a similar trip, somewhere between 70 and 90 miles, but this time with a growing baby who kicked her bladder, tried to burrow under her ribs and an insatiable need for more food and rest. Again, Mary is way tougher than I am.

Things went from comfortable to extremely uncomfortable quickly. We don’t know the exact timing of the census, but it is completely possible that the couple found out about it on one day and had to leave the next or within the week. Can you imagine needing to gather items for that kind of journey in less than 24 hours. And oh yes, you will also probably have to deliver a baby somewhere along the way or if you are lucky, after you reach Bethlehem. I love you Ben, but I think Joseph might be a bit tougher than you too =)

Waiting, wondering, worrying. Mary and Joseph must have shared these emotions with one another on that grueling journey. What if? How will we? Why now? We ask these same questions today.

In the spirit of Advent, today choose one of these questions and finish it with whatever you are struggling with or waiting for.

  • What if?
  • How will we/I?
  • Why now?

Then, go back to the blessing Elizabeth offered to Mary. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:45). Those words that must have comforted Mary early in her pregnancy would certainly continue to support her at it’s end. They are waiting to offer you solace and strength in the here and now.

***Are you starting to see how uniting our will with God’s is the key to not only getting to heaven, but to our current happiness? Even when life is swirling around us, God’s Will is ever steady. 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 page.Daily Graces.

December 7, 2016 – Waiting in Faith

I hope you were able to find someone to serve in a special way yesterday. I also hope that you saw the value in serving others, especially as you considered how Mary’s response to God’s Will is one of service.

When Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s home something special happened. As Mary approached, Elizabeth’s child (John the Baptist) “leaped for joy” in her womb and Elizabeth proclaimed the following profound words:

“Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?… Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:42-43; 46)

Now, I know that the details are rather sparse in the early days of Jesus’ life. Part of reading the Bible is using what we know about the culture, the people, the author and historical context to help us see the passages in a fuller light. We know Elizabeth lived approximately 80 miles away based on our geographical knowledge of Judea. So by donkey, or on foot and early in a pregnancy which for most women means nausea and naps Mary chooses to travel to Elizabeth. Mary was a lot tougher than I will ever be.

Now consider this. As far as we know and I would argue, we can infer with a high degree of certainty, at this point no one has affirmed Mary in this pregnancy. A child conceived out of wedlock was a death sentence for the mother, literally. It is likely Mary could have been stoned if Joseph took her to court. This was a girl’s worst nightmare. Depending on how quickly she left for Elizabeth’s Mary may not have even had any physical confirmation that she was pregnant. All she has to go on is the words of the angel.

She arrives dusty, dirty, probably feeling sick, definitely exhausted, and probably unsure of what kind of greeting she will receive. Then Elizabeth speaks. She not only welcomes Mary, she says exactly what Mary needed to hear. Elizabeth blesses Mary, she affirms her as a woman and as a mother, and then goes on to say those most important words that we all long to hear:

Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

We all have moments of doubt. We all wonder or question what God’s plan is for us. While we may not all have Elizabeths who can affirm us so well, we do have her words to encourage us.

Sometimes we have to wait for the Lord, just like we are waiting for Christmas this Advent season. Elizabeth tells Mary, and us, that we are blessed while we wait in faith and hope.

Take some time today, perhaps before you go to bed, think about something you are waiting for. Are you waiting in faith and hope, as Mary did? Or are you anxious, worried, or despairing? Recite Elizabeth’s blessing and find comfort and support while you wait. And if you are struggling with doubts about something this Advent, keep in mind that we have a God who keeps His promises.

***What did it feel like to intentionally serve someone? Did you find that the moment of service pushed you a little out of your comfort zone? 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 page.Daily Graces.