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Reflection on the Third Sunday of Advent

Posted on December 17, 2023, by Eleanor Craig SL

Isaiah 61:1-11.     Thessalonians 5:16-24     John 1:6-28

This is a light machine – a device that produces bright light for these winter days. Today’s readings remind us that we, too, are sources of light for one another, sources of light and joy.

The daylight, in this week before Christmas, has diminished to its least amount for the whole year – a little more than nine-and-a-half hours of daylight today, lessening still more until the 21st, then increasing less than a minute by Dec. 25.

In this time of diminished daylight, many people experience difficulty keeping up their spirits. These ups and downs are part of our human nature and give powerful evidence of our biological and spiritual connection to the earth and its cycles.  

The news of the day adds considerably to feelings of heaviness and darkness, individually and among us. Also wearing on us are the losses and anxieties of our changing Loretto reality. We may feel bogged down with frustrated responsibilities; some feel an urgency for closure that makes it difficult to embrace hope-filled opportunities; we all experience challenges as we try to find light and energy in the present moment. 

The effects of light deprivation, added to the urgent needs and tragedies of our days are not easy to live with. How will we manage? For some of us a light machine helps brighten our mood during the shorter days. And at a deeper level, today’s readings suggest trust, gratitude and prayer as ways to achieve a lasting attitude of joy, the kind of life-affirming joy spoken of in the simple reflection in last Friday’s announcements.

Light and joy are emotionally and spiritually connected.

We know, in a visceral, body sense, that the sun shining outside brings a special joy at this time of year. Our eyes open in the early morning, and we may feel a moment of exhilaration or a spurt of energy if the sun is shining. The long low light of winter evenings can ignite joy in the heaviest heart, leaving us uplifted and hopeful as the sun sets behind bare trees. 

Light evokes joy in our spirits, also. In Friday’s reflection we read Chardin’s words: “In the holy matter of the universe God is born.” Christ is born in us and “our spirits rejoice.”  We are truly the Christ-light-promised and the light of Christ in the present. We are formed to be joy to our world.

As Friday’s reflection says, “shared joy is not just cheerfulness or fun. Joy deepens within and among us when we share words of support and kindness” in the daily places where we meet each other; when we encounter another’s need and don’t turn away. Joy is deepened each time we lean toward the light in one another, rejoicing in and trusting God-with-us in our companions.  Joy is enhanced in us each time we share our light and bask in the light of the other. When the light in me joins with the light in you, and you and you, our many lights flame into a joyous community, a community spreading light and joy even in these dark days. 


Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. Now retired, she still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.