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.
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