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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Wednesday

Third Week of Advent: Incarnation…finding our own Bethlehem

At the very heart of the spirituality of St. Alphonsus is love: God’s love for us and our love for God in response. St. Alphonsus was overwhelmed by God’s love for him and for all of us, and for Alphonsus, this was especially manifest in Jesus. Jesus is the unshakeable sign and proof that God loves us.

The spirituality of St. Alphonsus has traditionally been summarized in the four symbols of the crib, the cross, the altar, and Mary. This Advent season, we’ll take the time to reflect on the crib. Each week’s reflection will focus on a different theme related to the birth of Jesus — in time and in our hearts this Christmas.

 

By Jeff & Brenda Vredenburg

For the last two Sundays our song has been “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and this song will continue until we welcome Christmas Eve with “Adeste Fideles,” O Come, All Ye Faithful! These two hymns focusing on the peace, joy, and hope of the Incarnation are so very familiar and such an important part of our season and tradition. We hope we will be ready for Christmas — but ready or not — here it comes! Our thoughts today focus on the Incarnation, the “I” from the word, “crib.”

This Sunday, things are a little different. There is a different rose-colored Advent candle, altar cloths, and vestments; there are more joyous themes; and that wonder, excitement, and anticipation that Christmas is just around the corner is growing. In the most unusual conditions and circumstances, Mary and Joseph experienced great changes in their lives, too, as they prepared for the birth of the Messiah. Their opened minds, and hearts open to trust and love, filled them with God’s plan to bring to us the best news ever. We sing, “O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer our spirits.”

St. Alphonsus reminds us that in the Incarnation, “God gave himself to us, in order that we may give ourselves to him.” Where do we begin? This gift of Jesus brings brand new meaning to the words, “Christmas Blessings.” We pray for the graces we need to receive God’s gift and really treasure it. We are forever grateful for God’s gift and that thankfulness brings us a steady, deep-down sense of peace. We also pray for the graces to share our gifts — our time, talents, and treasures. As George Matthew Adams tells us: “A Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide-open heart, that thinks of others first.”

Every year, we think, hope, and pray that this will be the best Christmas ever. So maybe we should, and can all try to, focus more this year on that first Christmas in Bethlehem — on the Incarnation — and be truly grateful for our faith, our many gifts (both given and received), and for our families and friends.

We are also mindful of the present and look toward the future as a time of growth and change. Nourished by the past and its beautiful traditions, customs, and rituals, we embrace and welcome the challenges of our days as Mary and Joseph did in their lives so long ago.

St. Alphonsus advises us to “receive Jesus with love and affection, and we will have recourse to him in all our necessities.” These words are filled with hope and peace, and their wisdom is most reassuring. It was in the Incarnation, that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

“Rejoice! Rejoice!” and, “O come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord!”

Jeff & Brenda are longtime parishioners of the Redemptorists’ St. Clement’s Parish in Saratoga Springs, NY, and were recently named Redemptorist Oblates, the highest honor bestowed on a layperson by the worldwide Congregation.