It is a well-known phenomenon that when the Christmas holidays approach, many people feel down. Rather than being a time of joy, these days are a time of sadness or even dread for some. Studies tell us that one of the reasons for this is that the holidays awaken childhood fantasies of wonder and delight. We hearken back to childhood Christmases when the world seemed perfect. Or we look backwards to times that were happier than the grief-filled or problem-ridden present. Another way of putting it is to say that the holidays stir up a deep down sense of what could be, or was, and is not.
Our lives as Christians are always about recognizing what could be and is not. We see the world as it is with its sin, its grief, its pain, but we do not stop there. Rather than being discouraged by the pain, Jesus invites us to look for ways to create something new and better. In the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent, we see that the way to move forward is through the substance of our very lives. John the Baptist exhorted the people to prepare for the Messiah by repenting and leaving behind the sin in their lives. He then told them to take the lives they had and do something more. Those with two coats could give one away, those with food could share some with others. Tax collectors could be fair and soldiers could stop bullying (Luke 3:10-18).
What could be happens through us. And it is not complicated or dramatic. Following John’s counsel, we use the substance of our lives to move forward. At home, lend a helping hand, seek help for problems, have a positive attitude. At work, be fair, sensitive to other workers and diligent in what you do. At school, apply yourself to your studies, offer to tutor somebody who is struggling. If you are feeling down for the holidays, reach out to help somebody in need.
Why bother? Because God does. God rejoices over us and even sings joyfully because of us (Zephaniah 3:14-18). It is almost time to celebrate the day when Mary rocked her Divine Son in her arms and no doubt sang to him as any mother would. The festival of Christmas draws near in the world that is. Hearing God’s song of joy over us, it is with our lives that we shape the world that could be.
Together in Faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector