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Bishop Paul Sirba: Here are some passages of Scripture to pray with this Advent

Sometimes we are left wanting more. Hopefully, Advent is a season like that for us! We should long for the coming of the Messiah. Advent has a two-fold character. It is a preparation for the Solemnities of Christmas and expectation for the Lord’s return in glory. Like the appearance of the star of Bethlehem, it is a flash, a brilliance of grace and light, found in silence and waiting.

Bishop Paul Sirba
Bishop Paul Sirba
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This year our watch is cut short. The fourth Sunday of Advent is also Christmas Eve. This is Advent at its shortest ebb. Be mindful of the days. Now don’t get any ideas of skipping Mass on the fourth Sunday. The faithful are obliged to attend Mass at least twice; at least once for the fourth Sunday of Advent (which can be anticipated on Saturday, December 23) and at least once for Christmas. Sorry, no “two for one” deal, but who would want to miss out on the free gift!

The Church assists our Advent preparations by remembering and proclaiming salvation history in the Sacred Scriptures. Take a passage like Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.” What is referred to as the protoevangelium, or the “first Gospel,” is the passage containing the first promise of a redeemer for fallen humankind. Prayerfully reflect on God’s merciful love in bringing good out of Adam and Eve’s sin. Thank God for the gift of the Sacrament of Confession and make time to go.

Pray with Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” Israel’s unfaithfulness does not prevent God’s initiative. For the Christian the Incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s desire to be with us. Emmanuel means “God is with us.” He is with us today in the midst of natural disasters, sin, and apathy. May our charitable response be not only a financial gift but a joyful encounter with the poor, personally.

How about spending some silent moments with Micah 5:1-2? “But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, least among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne.” Salvation will come through an anointed ruler. The greatest gift comes from the smallest and most out of the way place. God in hidden majesty lies before us each and every day. Do we see Him? Do we look for Him?

Look up for yourselves the passages Numbers 24:7; Deuteronomy 18:15; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Isaiah 11: 1-10; Jeremiah 23:5; Malachi 3:1. Open your heart to God’s love for you in the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament during these short Advent days of waiting. Find meaning for your life.

I also encourage you to accompany someone back to Mass this Christmas. Pope Francis has been reminding us again and again to accompany our brothers and sisters on the walk of faith. Jesus Christ is the light of our world and our lives. Only He can bring us peace. Souls can be transformed when someone, namely you and me, can be an instrument, a friend to accompany them on the journey.

Sometimes we are left wanting more. Jesus is the more we are made for and long for. Come, Lord Jesus!

Bishop Paul Sirba is the ninth bishop of Duluth.