Isaiah 35:1-10, Ps 146:5-10, Luke 1:46-55, Matt. 11:2-11, James 5:7-10
The waiting during the Christmas season is full of delicious anticipation. The smells of the baking, the fresh piney tree, the waft of hot-chocolate that steams up your glasses.The whispers and shopping bags whisked into rooms.The scheduling for parties and guests. The advent calendar chocolates. The promise of holiday idleness.
Most of us love the build-up to the big reveal, the family feast, the office party, the opened present, the time off from work and school.
But what happens when the gift/event/promises don't live up to our expectations and the hype?
I remember back to a Christmas when we let our 5 year old open one present on Christmas Eve. (We open everything else Christmas morning). With great anticipation he ripped open the gift bag, reached in, and pulled out.....pajamas. He stared at them for a moment, then tossed them over his shoulder with a disgusted; "I DON'T WANT PAJAMAS!" It was quite hilarious-although we did try to muffle our humour. The gift did not live up to his hopes. He didn't want them, but he did need them.
These advent scriptures are all about the unexpected. They may not be at all what we want, but there is a lot of what the poor majority of the world hopes for and needs.
Mary's song in Luke is justice for the oppressed, a redistribution of power and wealth. That fits the "desperately needed, but not truly wanted"category. The implications of this fair distribution would make many of us unhappy with this gift.
Isaiah is a reversal of fortunes like Luke. James says to "have patience in suffering" as you wait for the Lord (and don't grumble about it). Both of these rank even lower as wanted gifts than Christmas PJs for a 5 year old!
Then there's the Matthew story. John the baptist finds himself in jail, questioning if Jesus is the "gift" Messiah they've waited for. I think he is disappointed that Jesus isn't a completely obvious Messiah. (Like looking in the bag and seeing pajamas. This is it? It's not what I was looking for!) It must have been a bit difficult for John to get his head around the fact that this Messiah, the one that he said he wouldn't feel worthy to tie sandals for, was walking through the countryside talking to the poor and healing the crippled, and offending the establishment. No wonder Jesus added the comment; "blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
What do you (we) need for Christmas? While we wait with hope for what the world needs, we also have to be able to accept that what we need is likely quite different than what we want.
Endurance, restitution for the wronged, healing for the broken, help for the poor, pajamas for the kid who wants a toy.
How will we receive what God provides? How will we help Jesus in giving what is needed where it might cause offense?