the messengers

Dec 23, 2020

These daily reflections usually focus on the gospel reading of the day, but today I couldn’t get past the first line of the Old Testament reading:

“The Lord God says this: Look, I am going to send my messenger…”

The year that Francis of Assisi died, 1226, was the last time the planets of Jupiter and Saturn were visible together as they were last night. This “great conjunction” is sometimes referred to as the Bethlehem star.

Last night a friend took the above pic from his Auckland back yard. Thanks Rino!

In Old Testament times cosmic signs including stars and storms were often understood as divine communications. But how much more fortunate for us to know that in direct dialogue with Jesus, God is speaking personally to us.

It’s common to define prayer as conversation with God, speaking to God and listening to God. I like the definition since it respects the way we humans communicate, by both talking and listening.

But it’s easier to explain how we might talk to God, telling God about what is happening, asking God’s help etc. What about listening to God? How do we hear the messages that God has for us?

I suggest that it’s much easier than we think, but we might have to look in places that we don’t expect.

We all know how to talk, but listening can be more of a challenge in any relationship. A wise person appreciates that words are only one form of communication and they are often not as reliable as actions. Sometimes we say what we don’t mean and we hear what others don’t intend to express.

The one who offers a gesture of kindness after an argument is communicating much more clearly than the one who mumbles the word “sorry”.

Perhaps we expect God to speak through great cosmic signs, and the scriptures remind us that God can do this with signs in the sky, and pillars of fire by day and cloud by night to guide the people of Israel through the desert, the rainbow communicating God’s covenant, and angels on many occasions to convey his message.

But in the new era of divine communication the Word of God became flesh and God’s normal way of communicating becomes people, beginning with the flesh and blood presence of God in the world of Jesus Christ the Word of God made flesh.

There are moments when I sense the closeness and the communication of Jesus to me in my own life. Sometimes this is an inner sense of the direction I should or should not take. But people are very often the prime communicators of the voice of Jesus directly to me.  This happens in several ways:

  1. At times my friends are honest enough with me to challenge me when I need to be challenged and to recognise when I need support.
  2. Sometimes the word or example of a stranger encourages me on the right path or helps me to see the direction to be taken or to be avoided.
  3. In more recent years I have had to accept that God often uses people I don’t like too much as messengers for me, to push my buttons helping me to see the ways in which I need to grow.

An Invitation

  • Take a moment to consider the three points above, calling to mind one person God has used to be a divine messenger for you in the past couple of days.
  • Each day of these Advent reflections FFF readers have shared initials of those we pray for together. I’m aware that many of life’s struggles become even more visible at Christmas. So let’s start a new prayer list, for those you wish us all to pray for this Christmas.

Final O Antiphon: O Come Emmanuel

The Advent Hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel brings together the seven O Antiphons, with the title taken from the Antiphon for today, 23 December:

O Come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!



  1. Wow God has been quite vocal in my life over these past days, as the end of the working year approaches people have become more “needy” and wanting things done NOW! Are the words tolerance, patience and kindness being spoken? I think so!!
    I missed the star last night, I went to look for it a number of times, but must not be looking in the right place.. good to know that it could see me though! Thank you for the picture and the explanation.
    2 more sleeps!
    God bless you today and may Gods voice be heard!

  2. Now I feel like the wise men, I too searched for the star last night but didn’t see it from Hanmer Springs. Perhaps I was looking the wrong direction. In contrast to Jesus time perhaps our immense ability to communicate through so many channels makes the signs and wonders of those things we can’t control all that more relevant. This year it might offer comfort after a challenging year for the whole world; it speaks to our soul rather than our reason

  3. In the North rain clouds were covering the Star. Nobody minded, our tanks are nearly empty and our paddocks are cracked and dry. The rain felt like a Christmas present from Heaven. Could we pray with me for my daughter who also struggles to see the light behind the clouds.

  4. Amen thank you Father John for sharing dint get to see the Star’s and your reflection Amen

  5. Thank you for this beautiful reflection. I need reminding that God speaks to me in many different ways. And hopefully I can see the planets tonight at dusk.

  6. Thanks Fr John.

  7. Many thanks Fr John for this mornings Reflection. Much food for thought. I will be reading it many times during the day. SKJ.

  8. Unexpectedly, as I ate my lunch a stranger sat down and handed me a bunch of glorious Christmas lilies. We talked for ages, both lifting the spirits of each other. Turned out Roseanne was training to be a florist. She knew about flowers as messengers. My lilies then reached a friends’ table. She’d just heard some worrying health news. More smiles. Neighbours called in, drawn by the vase of flowers in the window and so the lilies continued to provide the “calling card” of God-with-us.


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