Opening Question: What's the biggest surprise you're ever had? Why was it a big surprise?
First Reading: Micah 5:1-4a
Antonio was a tall kid. You could spot him anywhere. But sometimes he felt small, unsure of himself. Sometimes he hated being so tall, because all he wanted to do was hide.
When the teacher announced a spelling bee in class, Antonio sank in his chair. Unlike the other kids who could sink and not be noticed, everyone around Antonio grinned and snickered. They felt sorry for him. But, he was just so obvious.
Antonio's teacher passed out a list of words she would use for the spelling bee. Many of these words the class had never seen before. Most had been spelling words they learned in class. When Antonio received his list and he looked over it, he sank even lower. His legs dangled out in the rows by the desk in front of him.
That night, Antonio began to study his list. But the more he studied, the more tired he became. "God,' he finally said in desperation, "help me with this list.' He put the list down, and went to bed.
The next morning, everyone noticed how down Antonio was. Everyone asked why. And he gave the same answer. "It's this spelling bee,' he said. "I want to do well, but it's impossible. Have you seen these words?' Then he stuck his head back into the list in a desperate attempt to learn more words.
That day, the spelling bee began. Antonio was hoping the contest would end soon, but his hope was in vain. Forty five minutes into the contest, the teacher called out, "Antonio, please stand and spell 'manipulate.''
"Ma-ni-pu-late,' Antonio responded. His palms began to sweat. His stomach began to chun. "M, A, N, I, P, U, L, A, T, E. Manipulate,' Antonio said unsure of himself. That was one of the hardest words in the list. But as he was spelling, he had a strange experience. He could see the word on the page of the list in his mind. It was very clear. Was he just kidding himself?
"Correct!' the teacher said.
"Really?' he blurted out. Everyone including the teacher began to laugh. Antonio didn't seem to mind. He stood there amazed he could spell a word he never saw before he received the list.
During that week, student after student was eliminated from the spelling bee. But in the end, one student was left. Antonio won the contest. No longer was the tall kid trying to hide. He stood taller than he ever had. Everyone, including Antonio, was proud of his achievement.
Like Antonio, the city of Bethlehem would surprise everyone. No one expected Antonio to win the spelling bee. But he did. No one expected the city of Bethlehem to be the city where God's Chosen would be born. But that's what happened. In this forgotten city, God would do something that would change the world.
Bridging Question: Who's the most important person in your family on Christmas when you open presents? Why?
Gospel: Luke 1:39-45
After the angel Gabriel told Mary she would be the mother of the Messiah, Mary got up and went as quick as she could to a town in the hills of Judea. There, she entered Zechariah's house and said "Hello' to her cousin, Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb suddenly moved a lot. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. "God has blessed you more than any other woman!' Elizabeth shouted. " And God has blessed the son in your womb! You, the mother of my Lord, came to visit me. Why should this happen to me?
Listen, Mary! When I heard your greeting, my baby suddenly moved a lot in my womb. He is full of joy!
And you are happy because you believed that everything the Lord told you will really happen!'
Sally was the smallest girl in her class and one of the smallest kids at school. She was quiet; she didn't have many friends. People didn't notice her much in a crowd. And she was an average student. Nothing about Sally jumped out and said: "I'm special!'
One day, everything changed for Sally and the school. During recess, some boys from another school came over and began to pick a fight with the fifth grade boys. First, there was yelling, then shoving. Everyone at the school knew that fists would be flying; so, everyone just looked on and waited. Everyone, that is, except Sally.
Sally simply walked up to the boys and, at the top of her lungs, yelled: "Stop!' Everyone, the boys from the other school, the grade grade boys, and kids on the play ground, stopped talking, turned, and looked at the small girl with the loud voice. Sally knew she only had their attention for a moment, so she walked up to the visiting boys and told them to leave. Everyone of the visiting boys realized they would just embarrass themselves if they took on the little girl; so, one by one, they left.
Then Sally turned to the fifth grade boys and told them to go play. One by one, they, too, went back to their activities.
By this time, the principal came onto the play ground, only to find that the fight he came out to stop was no more. He also found out why the fight had stopped. The surprising courage of one small girl made the difference.
The next month, the principal started a "Peace Keepers' squad on the playground. Each peace keeper had a blue jacket. But the leader's jacket was different; Sally's jacket was red with her name stitched into the sleeve.
Leaders come in different sizes and shapes. Sometimes they come from the most surprising places. But all great leaders have one thing in common; like Sally, they all rule with courage and peace. Elizabeth recognized Mary as the mother of such a leader: Jesus.
Because Elizabeth saw Mary in this way, she honored the young girl. The younger became more important than the older. The last became first.
This Christmas try to make someone else first. Not because they are the youngest or the oldest or the smartest. Make them first because you love them. That is the best Christmas gift you could give them.