Waiting for C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. | A Devotional for the 9 Nights of Simbang Gabi

Last year, I shared with you some of my memories and a brief history of a Filipino Advent tradition called Simbang Gabi, and so I wanted to follow up with a post that would hopefully enhance this year’s experience of that final sprint toward Christmas (because those nine nights of Masses really do take some stamina, no joke).

Below, I’ve outlined each of the readings for the night, beginning on December 15 and ending on December 23. Please note that since this blog is primarily written for a U.S. audience, many parishes here begin Simbang Gabi on December 15 instead of December 16. Each night’s theme was chosen according to at least one of the daily readings and its corresponding letter in the acronym C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. Beginning on Monday, December 15, be sure to check back here on the blog or visit the Leaven in the World Facebook Page to reflect on some questions based on that day’s theme. I will be publishing reflection questions for you daily during Simbang Gabi.

If you’ve never taken part in a Simbang Gabi Mass, I highly recommended checking it out (and even if you’re not able to make it this year, feel free to join us in reflecting together from the comfort of your own home 🙂 What are your favorite memories of these last days leading up to Christmas? My favorite is definitely noche buena on that last day of Simbang Gabi.

  1. 12.15.14. [C]ovenant
  2. 12.16.14. [H]ope
  3. 12.17.14. [R]oyal Roots
  4. 12.18.14. [I]mmanuel
  5. 12.19.14. [S]et Apart
  6. 12.20.14. [T]roubled
  7. 12.21.14. [M]ary’s Yes
  8. 12.22.14. [A]bout-Face
  9. 12.23.14. [S]ent

DAY 1: [C]ovenant | Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.15.2014

  • Numbers 24. A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.
    • Background: A star…a scepter: some early Christian writers, as well as rabbinic interpreters, understood this prophecy in messianic terms…Although this text is not referred to anywhere in the New Testament, in a Christian messianic interpretation the star would refer to Jesus, as also the scepter from Israel; cf. Is 11:1. | source
  • Psalm 25. Teach me your ways, O Lord.
  • Matthew 21. The Authority of Jesus Questioned

DAY 2: [H]ope | Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.16.2014

  • Zephaniah 3. Jerusalem Reproached; The Nations Punished and Jerusalem Restored. “But I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD: the remnant of Israel.”
  • Psalm 34. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
  • Matthew 21. The Parable of the Two Sons

DAY 3: [R]oyal Roots | Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.17.2014

  • Genesis 49. Jacob’s Testament (Farewell Discourse). “The scepter shall never depart from Judah…While tribute is brought to him,and he receives the people’s homage.”
    • Background: From his privileged position as a patriarch, he sees the future of his children (the eponymous ancestors of the tribes) and is able to describe how they will fare and so gives his blessing. | source
  • Psalm 72. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
  • Matthew 1. The Genealogy of Jesus
    • Background: Consisting of a genealogy and five stories, it presents the coming of Jesus as the climax of Israel’s history, and the events of his conception, birth, and early childhood as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. | source

DAY 4: [I]mmanuel | Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.18.2014

  • Jeremiah 23. A Just Shepherd. “See, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will raise up a righteous branch for David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely,he shall do what is just and right in the land.”
    • Background: With the false rulers (shepherds) who have governed his people the Lord contrasts himself, the true shepherd, who will in the times of restoration appoint worthy rulers (vv. 1–4). He will provide a new king from David’s line who will rule justly, fulfilling royal ideals (vv. 5, 6). | source
  • Psalm 72. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
  • Matthew 1. The Birth of Jesus. “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
    • Background: The virginal conception of Jesus is the work of the Spirit of God. Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary is overcome by the heavenly command that he take her into his home and accept the child as his own. The natural genealogical line is broken but the promises to David are fulfilled; through Joseph’s adoption the child belongs to the family of David. | source

DAY 5: [S]et Apart | Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.19.2014

  • Judges 13. The Birth of Samson. “An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son.'”
  • Psalm 71. My mouth shall be filled with your praise, and I will sing your glory!
  • Luke 1. Announcement of the Birth of John. “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John…He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.”
    • Background: [1:17] He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah: John is to be the messenger sent before Yahweh, as described in Mal 3:1–2. He is cast, moreover, in the role of the Old Testament fiery reformer, the prophet Elijah, who according to Mal 4:6 (Mal 3:24) is sent before “the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” | source

DAY 6: [T]roubled | Saturday of the 3rd Week of Advent | 12.20.2014

  • Isaiah 7. Emmanuel “…the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
    • Background: Emmanuel: the name means “with us is God.” Since for the Christian the incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s willingness to “be with us,” it is understandable that this text was interpreted to refer to the birth of Christ. | source
  • Psalm 24. Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
  • Luke 1. Announcement of the Birth of Jesus. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
    • Background: The announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus is parallel to the announcement to Zechariah of the birth of John. In both the angel Gabriel appears to the parent who is troubled by the vision (Lk 1:11–12, 26–29) and then told by the angel not to fear (Lk 1:13, 30). After the announcement is made (Lk 1:14–17, 31–33) the parent objects (Lk 1:18, 34) and a sign is given to confirm the announcement (Lk 1:20, 36). The particular focus of the announcement of the birth of Jesus is on his identity as Son of David (Lk 1:32–33) and Son of God (Lk 1:32, 35). | source

DAY 7: [M]ary’s Yes | 4th Sunday of Advent | 12.21.2014

  • Click here for the readings.
  • Click here for the homily.
  • Click here for useful background information on this week’s readings from Loyola Press’ Sunday Connection.
  • 2 Samuel 7. The Oracle of Nathan. “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me.Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
    • Background: The message Nathan delivers to David, called the Dynastic Oracle, is prompted by David’s intention to build a house (i.e., a temple) for the Lord, like David’s own house (i.e., palace) of cedar. David is told, in effect, not to bother building a house for the Lord; rather, the Lord will make a house for him—a dynasty, the House of David. | source
  • Psalm 89. For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
  • Rom 16. Doxology. “Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ…be glory forever and ever.”
  • Luke 1. Announcement of the Birth of Jesus. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

DAY 8: [A]bout-Face | Monday of the 4th Week of Advent | 12.22.2014

  • 1 Samuel 1. Hannah Presents Samuel to the Lord. “I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD.”
  • 1 Samuel 2. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
  • Luke 1. The Canticle of Mary. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
    • Background: Although Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord and because of her belief, she reacts as the servant in a psalm of praise, the Magnificat. | source

DAY 9: [S]ent | Tuesday of the 4th Week of Advent | 12.23.2014

  • Malachi 3. The Messenger of the Covenant; Moses and Elijah. “Thus says the Lord GOD: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.”
    • Background: [3:1] My messenger…before me: Mt 11:10 applies these words to John the Baptist; Mt 11:14 further identifies John as Elijah (see Mal 3:23). | source
  • Psalm 25. Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.
  • Luke 1. The Birth of John. “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
    • Background: [1:57–66] The birth and circumcision of John above all emphasize John’s incorporation into the people of Israel by the sign of the covenant (Gn 17:1–12). The narrative of John’s circumcision also prepares the way for the subsequent description of the circumcision of Jesus in Lk 2:21. | source
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