Six Ways to Pray to and Share the Newborn Jesus through a Christmas Carol

“Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope.” *

At the heart of the most endearing Christmas Carols is a glimpse into the manger scene in ancient Bethlehem. The kernel of meaning in these Christ-centered Christmas carol is contained in four small words: “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phil. 2: 11). First, the name “Jesus” comes from the Hebrew, “Yeshua,” and means “God saves”. Carols that help us recognize Jesus include What Child is this? and Silent Night. Second, are carols about Christ, Greek for “the anointed one.” These include Angels We have Heard on High and Hark the Herald Angles Sing. Finally, the experience of choosing Jesus as Lord is described in O, Come All Ye Faithful and Joy to the World. When we sing any of these Jesus-centered carols we have an opportunity to revisit Bethlehem ourselves and then share Christ with others through these songs.

Below are six ways to find and to share Jesus, the Christ, through a carol:

1)  **Sing a carol aloud, like “Silent Night.” Let its melody wash over your heart and touch your soul. Sing it aloud again, allowing its message to sink in – God so loves you, that he sent his son, Jesus, to become one with us. **If you don’t have any lyrics, download a free copy of fifteen Christ-centered Christian carols at http://www.christmascarolfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Christmas-Song-Sheet-2011.pdf)

2) Read the lyrics, after asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you and touch you.  Read them aloud or in silence slowly, three times. Whenever a word, phrase or image touches you (calms or excites you), stop and repeat that line, holding it in your heart for a time.

3) Reflect on one title/name for Jesus from within this carol (i.e. Holy Infant, Christ, Savior, Son of God, Light, or Redeemer). What does it say about Jesus? What does it say to you or about you?

4) Carry this title/name for Jesus with you into your day. Pray this title for a few moments before you send an email, text message, or before making a phone call. When you feel rushed or anxious, pause and let this name for Jesus echo in your heart and calm your spirit.

5) Write out your description of what this carol is saying to you. Then condense it down to one sentence for possible sharing with someone who has a need for Christmas peace and joy. Remember. Your experience with this Christmas carol can connect others to the Christmas event and to Jesus.

6) Consider preparing a longer sharing for more serious conversations about how you were moved from… fear to courage, or from hatred to love, weakness to strength, despair to hope, guilt to peace, loneliness to community…  through singing and praying this carol. But remember most sharings will normally be of the one sentence variety.

For video clips that feature images/titles for Jesus from two carols each… visit https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLa4Awga9K9r81CwNcbLu5D7bGt-5tRp72.)

*Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Seek That Which is Above, Ignatius Press, 2007

 

Posted in encounter Father, Son and Spirit, how to share faith | Comments Off on Six Ways to Pray to and Share the Newborn Jesus through a Christmas Carol

Are You Afraid of What God is Asking?

Early in 1912 St. Frances Cabrini had a reservation for an ocean voyage from Europe to New York, but because of administrative problems at Columbus Hospital in New York City, she canceled her trip and took another ship a month earlier. The ship she would have traveled on was the Titanic. This brush with death was yet another example of God’s ongoing protection. It all began with a near drowning in a river at the age of seven, which left St. Frances with a persistent fear of water. This life-long anxiety caused her great turmoil as she realized her call to be a traveling missionary.

Tell God Your Fears

So one day St. Frances took her fears before the Sacred Heart in prayer. Jesus responded with a promise, “I (will) protect and guide you with my hands from one sea to the other.”  So she put her faith in God often and boarded many sea-going vessels for the sake of her missionary commitment to immigrants. Mother Cabrini survived many dangers at sea during her twenty-three international ocean voyages. And she also survived dangerous visits in coal mines, trips into yellow fever infested neighborhoods, a donkey ride down the side of a precipice, and decades of poor health. But none of these things mattered. She trusted God.

Move Forward in Trust

Therese was reminded of this trust during a visit to St. Frances Cabrini’s shrine in New York City where she offered God a newly released book on evangelizing children. She enjoyed talking to St. Frances about this work and recommitted herself to her educational ministry, despite fears of managing whole classrooms full of children. She told God she was willing to “speak of Jesus and make Jesus known,” as St. Frances would say. Then Therese went to a side chapel to light a candle for her dad whose leg was recently amputated. She had just lit an electric “candle”, when a young boy named Manny charged into the side chapel and pushed the buttons on three more candles.  Therese stopped him after the third one and told him she could show him something exciting about the candles. He was interested.

Act on What God Asks

“These candles are like little door bells that we can use to talk to God,” she explained.

“I want to talk to her,” Manny said pointing at St. Frances’s statue. Therese asked what he would like to talk to St. Frances about. Then they were ready to begin by lighting one (more) candle.

“Mother Cabrini,” Therese prayed aloud, “Let me introduce you to Manny.  He came here to talk to you and to ask you to help his dad find a job. And since we know that you loved Jesus so much, please ask Jesus to help too. (Then she paused.) Thanks for listening and for this great place where we can talk to you and to God. Amen.” Manny enjoyed their prayer and left with a quick “Thank you” when his grandmother appeared at the entrance to the side chapel.

Tap into God’s Love

What fears do you face as you try to live out the vocation and the call to ministry that you have received from God? What particular people has Jesus Christ asked you to serve and to lay aside your fears for? Perhaps praying St. Francis Cabrini’s favorite Scripture often might help you. “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

Posted in growth for evangelizers, how to share faith | Comments Off on Are You Afraid of What God is Asking?

What Reality Are You Living ‘IN’?

Do you ever wonder if your family or people in government, or even your friends on social media are living in the same reality as you? Are you longing for the unity that comes from living the same positive values and reality together? Wishing you could see deeper than the violence and lack of hope around us? Here is one step you can take.         

Acts 17: 22-28 

Then Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, “Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For… as I looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, He who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things… so that they would search for God, if perhaps  grope for Him and find Him, though indeed He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being. [NRSV]     

Reflection

Therese’s first encounter with ‘IN’ was during third grade when this tiny word sat by itself IN a ‘preposition’ jar made of glass. The rest of the words lingered further away on the blackboard –near, around, next to, by, across… But over time her experience of ‘IN’ deepened; until she realized just how often only this tiny, but meaningful, word would do – in love, in trouble, in a hurry, in my car, in pain, INternet, in labor, in a hurricane, in the name of the Father…

The word ‘IN’ can usher us into a most profound encounter with God, when we pray the ‘Sign of the Cross.’  The beginning of this prayer dares us to place ourselves within the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as our ultimate reality.  We can also plunge ourselves into the mutual love of the persons of the Trinity, the source of a life of holiness. And because Christ first became incarnate in our midst, we can experience a full awareness of being children of the Father, continuously plunged into the waters of our Baptism by the Holy Spirit, who stirs up these living waters. When we enter into this prayer, we embark upon an act of ongoing immersion into love. We dare to hope that all the moments of our day and every reality we encounter can be made holy. Our actions can then echo St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles who declares, “IN him we live and have our being (17:28)”.

Faith Sharing Questions:

  1. What favorite place, room or chair do you often imagine or dream about BEING “IN”? Why is that a comfortable place for you?
  2. What is your experience of the Sign of the Cross as a prayer of immersion… in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?
  3. What does being IN a relationship with God mean to you? What does being “IN the world but not of the world mean for you?”
Posted in encounter Father, Son and Spirit, growth for evangelizers | Comments Off on What Reality Are You Living ‘IN’?