January 12, 2019
by Maureen McCann Waldron
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Saturday after Epiphany
Lectionary: 217

1 John 5:14-21
Psalms 149:1-2, 3-4, 5-6a, and 9b
John 3:22-30

Celebrating Christmas

For many people, these can be the most difficult weeks of the year.  Christmas is really over now and we might be left with boxes still to be put away, a sense that we ate and drank too much and the dismal sight of brown pine needles still stuck in the carpet and chair cushions.  And maybe, we are also left with regrets and the disappointments of an unfulfilled expectation.

"Come, Lord Jesus" we prayed during Advent.  For those early weeks in December we were the people walking in darkness but filled with the hope of the coming of a Savior.  We looked for a light ahead, and the promise, finally, of some healing in our lives.  There was anticipation.  "Come, Lord Jesus," we prayed.   Make my holidays "real" ones, we might have begged God - the kind of holidays we see on TV and the movies with happy, smiling people - without the tension or arguing.  Maybe for a moment we felt healed, but now we are back to what is in many parts of the world, the dark days of winter.  

Where is that promise now?  

Perhaps it is right in the middle of our messy lives and the disappointments of our own humanity.  God didn't send a savior into our lives to stay only while our homes are decorated for Christmas.  Our God is a savior who is with us in all of it, including the unspeakable sadness and heartaches of our lives.  Our savior became human - and lived a human life as we do.  He understands our lives and our imperfections.

"The Lord takes delight in his people" today's Psalmist tells us.  The Lord takes delight in us.  Our God looks at the messy lives we lead, and sees us exactly as we are - only with more compassion and love than we see ourselves.  God doesn't just tolerate us - he loves us with a joyful, wild abandon we can't understand because we don't love that way.  And how would our lives be different if we did believe it?  Perhaps if we really could feel that we were loved beyond comprehension, we would be more forgiving, more patient and more loving ourselves.

Today's gospel is a glimpse into the reality of life - even for John the Baptist.  The gospel tells us that "a dispute arose" as the followers of John asked about the relationship between he and Jesus.  They were jealous as so many people came to Jesus for baptism - was that right?

John says to them, "I must decrease and he must increase."  We are being invited to become less self-absorbed and to allow Jesus to grow in our hearts.  If we really make room in our hearts, if we really believe we are loved so deeply by God, we can allow Jesus to enter into the chaos of our real lives, our non-holiday lives, and be with us in the darkness of our longing for something more.  

"Come, Lord Jesus," we can pray every day. "Come into our loneliness," we might ask, "Touch our desire for something different, something more in our lives.  Help us to feel your love, to heal our hearts.  Forgive my stubbornness.  Help me to forgive the one who has hurt me so deeply.  Help me to find you in my life in this cold, dark day."

We can beg God to come into our hearts and fix what is wrong.  Help us with the hardest parts of our lives, the disappointments and disillusionments, the people who drive us crazy.  Transform my heart to be more generous with my spouse.  Help me deal with the family member who constantly criticizes, the one who drinks too much.
It is that prayer, that open-ness toward God, that generosity of heart, that God will respond to.  There will be no magic or easy solutions, but perhaps only an easing of our hearts, a gentle sense of peace or a remembering that once again we can be transformed into the patient people of Advent, full of hope and expectation.

This reflection is from the archives, for this date in 2004.

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