3rd Sunday of Advent 2022
The signs of Christmas have been all around us: displays in stores, decorations in homes, music on the radio. The other night I went out looking for Christmas lights for my tree and it's now impossible to find extra strings of Christmas lights for sale. Most stores were cleaned out weeks ago.
But in our liturgies the approach to Christmas moves at a slower pace. Last week before Jesus comes on the scene we heard John the Baptist describe a time of wrath to come and the dramatic appearance of the Messiah who separates wheat from chaff.
In today's Gospel John makes his second Advent appearance. Now in prison he's heard about Jesus and sends messengers to find out if Jesus is truly he who is to come.
It seems Jesus may not be the Messiah John the Baptist expected. Jesus will also disappoint others’ Messianic expectations and some of his actions will scandalize.
The Messiah that they were all looking for and what they thought they “wanted” wasn’t the one they really needed! The one they actually got. The one that God gave them.
Jesus urges John's disciples to report what they actually got. Signs that Jesus is truly the one sent by God. Signs of dramatic transformations: physical disabilities healed, good news proclaimed to the poor.
This Savior that the world really needs and we still do!
What do you want for Christmas this year?
Ask children that question and the answer is always what they “want,” like a new bike, the latest video game, or blue jeans with the correct number of rips and tears down the legs.
But as we get older, the question changes. It’s not about what we “want,” but what we “really need”:
We may really need the healing of a broken relationship.
We may really need someone to again say “I love you.”
We may really need the courage to correct something that is wrong, to change a dynamic that is hurting those we care about, to heal the brokenness we or someone we love is experiencing.
We may really need the patience of the prodigal son’s father, the faith of the farmer who plants seed on less-than-promising ground, the hope of the merchant in search of the pearl of great price.
We may really need the trust and faith of Mary that enables her to say “yes” to God’s call to be the mother of his son.
We really need the compassion of Joseph who continues to love Mary and protects her when her pregnancy is discovered and everyone close to her is scandalized.
Advent is the season for opening our hearts to realize what we really need this Christmas. Realizing those “gifts” begins by seeing the love we take for granted, the love we fail to see, the love that remains despite ourselves.
It begins by slowing down and taking on the hard work of converting and re-creating our hearts.
Now all the signs of Christmas around us are meant to express joy and gladness but of course not everyone automatically feels such joy in this season.
Many people bear burdens: economic, emotional or physical which seem heavier amidst the trappings of the holidays. They may not be into all the lights, music and decorations.
But people of faith, like you and I, can help them look beneath the surface joy and give them what they really need.
We are the real signs of Christ present to those who walk in darkness searching for God by sensitive listening, generosity toward those in need, assistance to those who are burdened.
We become part of the transforming power of God's reign breaking into our world.
These are the true signs of Emmanuel God With Us in Jesus Christ.
So, what do you NEED this Christmas?
Again, let’s use these Advent days to slow down and open our eyes and hearts to see what we truly need in order to be the people God calls us to be!