So Great a Cloud of Witnesses | A Devotional for the 9 Nights of Simbang Gabi 2017

For an explanation of the Filipino Catholic tradition of Simbang Gabi, click here. To take a look at my last devotional (from 2014), click here.


  1. 12.15.17. Changing Seasons – Brooke Bailey
  2. 12.16.17. Lord, Let Us See Your Face – Lauralyn Solano
  3. 12.17.17. Let Us Free One Another – Rachel Stott
  4. 12.18.17. Seeing the Light of Hope Amidst the Darkness – Jennifer Messenger
  5. 12.19.17. On the Other Side of the Door – Megan Stolz
  6. 12.20.17. Joyful Anticipation – Minh Cang
  7. 12.21.17. Recognizing Grace – Katie Waite
  8. 12.22.17. Mary’s Intimate Magnificat – Lisa Helene Donovan Bacalski
  9. 12.23.17. Modern Day Messengers – Cecilia Flores

Do you suffer from tunnel vision? I do. I blame it on my kids (whom I love dearly), who manage to make even most mundane of tasks like making a phone call or walking through a parking lot exponentially harder. And so, for the last five years or so, I’ve been hyper-focused on my own little world, head down, nose to the grindstone, sometimes just trying to make it to the end of the day.

Survival mode. We’ve all been there. But when you’re in it for too long, you start thinking the tunnel is all there is, and the light at the end of it is really just a vague rumor. I’ve found that the holiday season can either be a welcome reprieve from the daily grind, but can also go horribly wrong when it turns into an exercise of measuring up and comparing myself to everyone else. Sometimes, it feels easier to just hide from the world until it’s all over, to stay bundled up in my blue fleece snowflake robe and never leave the house (I’m clearly an introvert).

But as much as my tunnel vision compels me to turn inward and simply focus on those in my inner circle, Scripture is clear when it says that our Triune God, in whose image we are created (cf. Gen 1:26), created us for community (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), and not simply a community of people that all look and think alike, but one composed of “every nation, race, people, and tongue” (Rev 7:9). The community that we are called into requires us to get outside of ourselves, leave our comfort zones and, as Gregory Boyle puts it, “dismantle the barriers that exclude” (Tattoos on the Heart 75).*

When I decided to publish a new devotional for Simbang Gabi this year, I was inspired by this idea of inviting others in and getting outside of myself. I have had the privilege of knowing so many people whose lives (whether they know it or not) have offered me and the people around them glimpses of God. The women I chose to invite to be part of this project come from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. While Simbang Gabi may be a Filipino Catholic tradition, the practice of waiting and preparing our hearts for Christmas is one that Christians around the world, across every denomination can relate to.

Beginning today at 2:00 p.m. EST for the next nine days, I’ll feature the reflection of a different writer, each one based on one of the daily readings from the Roman Catholic lectionary. I’m so grateful for all the time and energy that each of these women offered up for this devotional. I know there were lots of early (4am!!) mornings, time away from school/work/family, and responding to edits that were poured into this.

My prayer this year is that this devotional becomes an invitation to all who read to look up, refocus, and reconnect with the Body of Christ:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

May these stories be a reminder of the greatness that surrounds us, of the stories that are waiting to be told, of Christ’s presence waiting to be recognized. Happy Advent!

*In Tattoos on the Heart, Fr. Boyle uses the story of the healing of the paralytic to speak to God’s compassion, the expansive heart of God. He writes, “The focus of the story is, understandably, the healing of the paralytic. But there is something more significant than that happening here. They’re ripping the roof off the place, and those outside are being let in” (75).

11 thoughts on “So Great a Cloud of Witnesses | A Devotional for the 9 Nights of Simbang Gabi 2017

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