Tag: Advent

Dec 7 2011

Advent reflection: Choosing to be ‘eager,’ not ‘anxious’

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

“Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

I confess that I get a little irritated by some common ways that people misuse words.

For example, it bugs me when I hear notoriety used as a synonym for fame, or when people say less when fewer would be more appropriate. (And don’t even get me started on very unique!)

I recognize this as my own little persnickety hang-up, and my purpose here is not to lecture about the decline of the English language.

I really just want to set the table for a reflection on one common misusage that seems especially pertinent during Advent.

People often say they are anxious when they are looking forward to something. For example: “It has been two weeks since Joe left on his trip and I am anxious for him to come home.”

But anxious is a form of anxiety, which means a state of worry or apprehension ñ hardly the sentiment Joe would want to be greeted with upon his return! Read more

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Nov 30 2011

Advent reflection: God shares in our humanity

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

“…Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.”
(Mark 1:2)

There is an urgency in the Gospel of Mark that contrasts with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

Where those writers start with events surrounding Jesusí birth, Mark begins his account with John the Baptist setting the stage for Jesusí public ministry. John is one of the most vivid characters in Scripture.

As if his garb of camel skin and his penchant for eating locusts werenít memorable enough, his single-minded devotion to calling people to repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah sears him into our collective imagination.

This rough intensity makes John an interesting symbol for Advent.

While society likes to pretty-up this time of year with bright colors, warm thoughts and overindulgence on sentimentality, John reminds us that preparation for Christmas isnít just a feel-good exercise. Read more

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Nov 23 2011

Advent reflection: Seeing the face of Christ through sponsorship

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ì…for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our guilt. Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.î (Isaiah 64: 6b-7)

We begin our Advent journey with a beautiful and plaintive reading from the Prophet Isaiah.

In a time of exile, the prophet yearns for Israel to know once again the intimacy of her historic relationship with God, even while acknowledging the sinfulness that has injured that relationship.

In a reading filled with powerful images, one of the most haunting is that of the face of God being hidden from the people. It is an image worth some reflection. Read more

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Nov 19 2011

Inviting the prayerful anticipation of Advent: Youth eLesson

CFCA sponsor Autumn Domingue with her sponsored child, Jacinto, during a 2011 mission awareness trip to Guatemala.

Advent is coming soon!

Larry Livingston, CFCA director of church relations, has created a way to help young people enter into Advent reflection with a simple daily exercise.

For each of the 28 days of Advent, we offer a single word for reflection.

Some come from the Scriptures of the season, some from Catholic tradition, and some are just intended to stimulate creative thinking.

Download our Youth eLesson.

Wishing you and your family a blessed Advent season!

Related links

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Dec 29 2010

Advent reflection: Modern pilgrims find a star worth following

Larry LivingstonHere is the last of the Advent-Christmas season reflections from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope you have learned from and enjoyed these as much as we did!

ìWe saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.î (Matthew 2:2)

One of the most interesting things about the brief account of the visit of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew is what is not included. For instance, we arenít told where the visitors came from, how many there were or anything about their backgrounds.

Legend has it that they were kings and that there were three (because of the three gifts), but that is all historical embellishment. Matthew didnít seem to think such details were important.

But he did think other things were important, such as the fact that these travelers were seekers of truth and were willing to go to great lengths to find it.

Another major point is that, while the Magi were prominent enough to receive an audience with King Herod, they werenít caught up in the trappings of wealth and influence. When they eventually did find the Christ-child, they saw past his humble surroundings to honor him for who he was.

CFCA mission awareness trip

Sponsors during the September 2010 Kenya/Uganda mission awareness trip attend a parade led by the Shangilia childrenís band. The sponsors are wearing the traditional Masai regalia.

And, while Matthew doesnít share exactly what land the visitors came from, he does emphasize that they were foreigners.

Perhaps he deliberately left out any reference to a particular country because he wanted them to represent all nations and peoples, but one thing is certain ñ the Gospel writer wants us to know that these foreign gentiles were among the first to recognize the Messiah.

So, while we may not know a lot about the Magi, what we do know is profound. They are defined not by kingly trappings and power, nor even by gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In the end, the Magi matter because they hungered for God and were willing to face any obstacle in order to know him. They truly were îWise Menî (if, indeed, they were men!) and they set an example that holy pilgrims have followed for more than 2,000 years.

The CFCA community has our own holy pilgrims. Each year, more than 700 people, most of them CFCA sponsors, travel from the U.S. to visit our projects in the 23 countries where we work.

Like the Magi, they too are seekers. And, like the Magi, they find life-changing truth in the humblest of surroundings.

In spending time with sponsored friends and in witnessing firsthand the work of our project staff to help families and communities lift themselves out of oppressive poverty through CFCAís Hope for a Family program, these travelers behold the same wonder that the visitors from the east beheld 2,000 years ago ñ God truly dwells among and within the poor of this world!

It is good news that begs to be shared wherever people yearn for a star worth following.

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Dec 22 2010

Advent reflection: Share the good news of holy families

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ì…let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.î (Colossians 3:15)

A poor young couple is expecting their first child. The authorities tell them to leave their home and travel to an unfamiliar, far-off village.

When they arrive they can find no decent housing and are forced to settle into a ramshackle outbuilding.†There, with animals milling about and nothing but straw to insulate them from the chill of night, the young mother gives birth …

You know the rest of the story. It is a tale we have grown to cherish at this time of year.†It comforts us to hear it over and over again as we connect once more to Christmases past and the manger scenes of our childhood homes and churches.

It is the story of the Holy Family.

But it is also the story of other families, hundreds of thousands of them the world over.†They too are powerless against the whims of government. They too must rely on whatever shelter they can find for the sake of their children. They too struggle against displacement and weather and challenges most of us will never know.

And they, too, are holy.

Yamini and her family

Pictured is the family of Yamini, right, a sponsored child in Hyderabad, India.

At CFCA we call our sponsorship program Hope for a Family. We didnít choose that name just because we liked it, but because it reflects two important truths we have learned over the years from sponsored persons.

The first is that hope liberates people to dream and inspires them to work hard to make their dreams come true.

The second is that the best place for hope to thrive is within the family.

This is good news and we want to share it.†Like the Gospel writers who shared the wondrous accounts of Christís birth, we want to let people know that God dwells among the poor and the marginalized of this world.

And, again like the Gospel writers, we want to invite those who hear us to become part of an amazing story.

Ultimately, the story of the Holy Family is one of perseverance in the face of great challenges.

It is a story of love between husband and wife, parent and child. It is a story of trust in Godís goodness, and reliance on the kindness of other people.

And it is a story with a happy ending despite the harshness of the journey.

The CFCA community celebrates this story. It is our story as well.

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Dec 15 2010

Advent reflection: Embrace the humanity that led to our salvation

Larry LivingstonEvery Wednesday during the Advent-Christmas season, we will post a reflection from Larry Livingston, CFCA church relations director. We hope these reflections help you on your own journey through Advent.

ì…the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.î (Isaiah 7:14)

With the Fourth Week of Advent we enter into the final few days of preparation for our celebration of Christmas and the gift of the Incarnation. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, and as Matthewís Gospel reiterates (Matthew 1:18-24), God is with us!

Try as we might, we can never fully wrap our minds around such a wondrous reality. The best we can hope to do is humbly reflect on what it means, for each of us and for the world, that God has entered into such intimate solidarity with the human family.

Being human ñ that is to say, being a spiritual person with a physical body ñ has its own particular challenges. Humans experience hunger and thirst. We endure sickness and disease. We canít fly without machines, nor can we move through walls.

Unlike our spiritual cousins, the angels, to be human is to be bound by the limitations of the material world.

And, of course, humans are mortal. More to the point, we know we are mortal.

Samuel and his family

The family of Samuel, second from left, a sponsored child from Kenya. Samuel is physically challenged.

No matter how we try to distract ourselves from it, the reality of death is ever present within our consciousness. So much of what we do, for better or worse, is influenced by that awareness.

But there is so much more.

To be human is also to be blessed with imagination and ingenuity. We have the ability to hope, to dream and to work to make our dreams come true.

While we have limitations, we also have the will and the resourcefulness to overcome those limitations in highly creative ways. We are storytellers, poets and visionaries.

We are also capable of great and generous acts of kindness. We are compassionate beings whose natural impulse is to love, and we seek out others with whom we can dwell in loving communion.

Yes, in our sinfulness we are also capable of acts of selfishness and cruelty, but like a magnet that always seeks true north, the genuine inclination of most human beings is toward the good.

At CFCA, we are blessed to be reminded on a daily basis of human goodness. In the resolve of sponsored persons, in the loving support of their families, in the resourcefulness of their communities, and in the willingness of sponsors to invest in their hopes and dreams, we see the best of humanity.

The CFCA world proclaims, with joy, that God is truly with us!

In Jesus we come to know that it is not the denial of our humanity that leads to salvation, but rather the full embrace of it.

May this Christmas be a time to embrace in ever deeper ways the God who dwells within each of us and among all the people of our good world.

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