Pink Candles and Presents for Jesus

Yesterday marked Lily’s favorite day of Advent, because we finally lit the pink candle! She has been waiting all of two weeks for this event. She loves pink, and I love this week, too, because in the midst of a penitential season, we get to get excited for the coming of Jesus! The pink candle is for Gaudete, which means a time to rejoice!

It’s also time to get serious about preparing for the coming of Jesus. For Timothy, who’s 4, this is hard. He counts down the days until Christmas, we light the Advent Wreath, we talk about Jesus. And he knows Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, but all he really wants to do is talk about presents. He already has wrapped many of his own toys and put them under the tree because he is so excited about presents.

In fact, last night, he was complaining about not wanting to eat dinner. Then, all on his own, he motivated himself to eat by telling himself if he ate his dinner then he could open a present under the tree. A present that he wrapped himself, of a toy he already owned. But he ate his dinner!

As parents, we must try to stay focused on the reason for the season. I know many parents do sacrifice beads, or have their kids put straw in the manger when they do good deeds to make a nice soft bed for Jesus. But straw just doesn’t seem that soft to me, and making a bed for Jesus hasn’t been all that exciting of an idea for Timothy.

So, enter presents. We have a video called, “The best present of all is Jesus.” And a book that says we give presents to each other because it’s Jesus’ birthday, and he gave us the gift of himself. And the Magi brought presents for Jesus. And my favorite Veggie Tales of all time, “The Toy that Saved Christmas,” talks about how Christmas isn’t about getting, but about giving. So what can we give to Jesus at Christmas? Timothy thinks He would like a train. And He probably would, right? But what else can we give? We can give our hearts.

Back in high school, I wanted a practical way to give my heart to Jesus as a present. So I cut out a bunch of hearts, and every time I did something good or avoided something bad to love Jesus, I put a heart in a little present box. Then, by Christmas, I had a box full of hearts for him. Since we would get to Mass early, I stopped in the chapel and offered my box of hearts to him. I did this several advents, unbeknownst to anyone else. But now, I would like to share my idea with you, as in these last two weeks of Christmas it could be a great way for you, your children, or your whole family to really get ready for the coming of Jesus by preparing your hearts as a present to Him.

We started yesterday, but Timothy seems pretty excited about it!:

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A Rose in Winter: An Invitation to Grace

 

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. A big part of the story is the roses in winter – Juan Diego brought the roses to the bishop as the miraculous sign that it was Mary who appeared to him. Our Lady of Guadalupe is Patronness of the Americas, her miraculous image on the tilma can still be seen today, and there is much rich symbolism in that image.

I don’t feel much of a connection with Our Lady of Guadalupe, but I do have a connection to Mary and roses in winter. As I was reading a reflection this morning on the roses, my mind was drawn to the winter I spent studying abroad. Before the semester in Austria began that January, a few of my friends and I travelled to France for a week. One of our stops was to Lourdes. As we were visiting the grotto, I noticed a single rose growing out of the side of the grotto. In January, I found it unusual, so I took a picture of it:

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Excuse my terrible photography skills, but trust me, it was a rose.

I wrote in my journal on the third and last day we were in Lourdes:
“We prayed at the Grotto and that pink rose was still there on the hill. That spoke volumes to me. A single rose in the winter, alone in the midst of stunted growth and the death of winter. “

For me, it was a rose of hope. That no matter how dead our souls are, or the world seems to be, there is hope. Mary, our star and our guide, leads us to the grace found in her son, Jesus.

I wrote this about the miraculous water at Lourdes: “There are so many spigots of water I could hardly believe it! The millions of people who come by to drink, with no limit on how much, and there’s an abundance!

To me, that’s grace. There is no limit to God’s grace, love, and mercy that he pours out on us each day. “Living in God’s grace, there will be trials, but God’s grace is more than enough. Jesus came for the sick and needy, not for the strong and hearty. I came here to Lourdes for the deeper conversion of my heart, and I placed Mary in charge. Mary, the Grotto, and the spring only point me toward the Mass and the Sacraments. Drink at the fountain and discover where the richness of grace truly lies. It’s a simple call to conversion, a purifying call, a cleansing time here in winter.”

So, maybe I have a connection to Our Lady of Guadalupe after all, as her message to Juan Diego was announcing the love and mercy of God, hearing our weeping and sufferings and loving us as a merciful mother. And in her message at Lourdes that winter, I heard the same thing. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us to receive the grace and mercy of God, especially in this Year of Mercy!