The Sundays of December include three Sundays of Advent leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent is a season of preparing. As we eagerly await the Lord’s return in the Second Coming, we live lives prepared or in a state of preparation eager to welcome the Lord when He arrives. Click on each heading below to read the Sunday readings, from usccb.org
We also prepare to celebrate the first coming of the Lord by which we remember His birth and all the wonderful deeds of the Lord, which prepared for the Incarnation. We finally prepare for the coming of the Lord into our hearts and minds. This coming is the continual presence of the Lord among us for He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”
Second Sunday of Advent (December 4)
The Gospel for today’s liturgy contains the opening verses of the Gospel according to Mark. The Evangelist begins by quoting Isaiah as he presents the message of John the Baptist who prepared for the Lord’s public ministry. The preparation was a proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John prepares for the Messiah as he says, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
As we continue our celebration of Advent we are invited to “go to the desert” in a spiritual sense; to go deep into our hearts in an openness to repentance and to seek the forgiveness that is willingly offered.
Third Sunday of Advent (December 11)
In today’s Gospel, St. John the Evangelist presents the mission of John. Similar to Mark’s presentation last week, the mission of John is one of preparation. John, however, brings to the fore the question of identity. Who is John in relation to Jesus? It is clear that John is not the Messiah but one who prepares for His coming. John is not the light but comes to bear witness to the light. The witnessing to Jesus continues today in the life of the faithful. As we welcome Jesus more and more into our hearts, as our lives continue to be transformed by His Grace, as our awareness of His Mercy deepens, the more we become witnesses of His Light.
Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 18)
The Gospel today recalls the Annunciation to Mary. Gabriel conveys the news that the Messiah is to be born into the world. Through Him, His Father’s greatness will be revealed. Through Him, the promises of old would be fulfilled. Through Him, the covenant with Israel will be perfected. Mary’s response to the message of the angel, an invitation from God, is “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary becomes not only the mother of Jesus but His first disciple. Her response to the word of the angel can echo in our lives when we say “let it be” to the Word of God.
The Nativity of the Lord [Christmas] (December 25)
The readings for the liturgies on Christmas vary depending on the Mass (vigil, night, dawn or day). The magnificence of the Nativity and its significance are reflected in these Gospel passages. Attending the Vigil Mass you will hear the genealogy from St. Matthew’s Gospel which captures the saving actions of God through the life of Israel which prepares for the Messiah. There are plenty of figures who represent the fact that God can work through any situation, challenge and even our own sinfulness.
The Midnight Mass has the Lukan account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The account brings to mind the simplicity in which Jesus was born and how readily the “lowly ones” or “simple folk” respond to His presence among them. A simple heart, childlike in many ways, is a sure route to encounter the Lord among us.
The Mass at dawn recalls the shepherds in the fields hastening to find Mary, Joseph and the newborn Jesus; after which they go forth proclaiming God’s praises. We too are called to praise God for His gracious love and presence among us.
Finally, those attending Mass during the day will hear the opening words of the fourth Gospel — the Prologue. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…” leads us to reflect on the “awesome” manifestation of God’s love and mercy in Jesus who though existing for all time, and through whom all of us came to be, took on flesh and became one of us to show us the way to our heavenly Father.
All these celebrations on Christmas remind us of the love God has for us. We celebrate that love and rejoice in His mercy.