Isaiah 35: 1-6,10; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11
I have often wondered what the relationship between Jesus and the Baptist was really like? Knowing that there was tension between the two camps would lead you to believe that at times there was probably some between the two of them as well, at least some tension that existed in their messages. They were both very passionate, young guys who were often pushed to the fringes and to the desert because they both had a tendency to make the leaders uncomfortable because of their message. It was an uncomfortable message towards Herod that leads John to where he is today, imprisoned. Yet, we know that Herod also feared John because of his following. Yet, if we could imagine for a few moments by putting ourselves in the place of John in prison today. It’s nothing like the prisons we think of today, but was more likely a large hole in the ground with him chained to the earth and dark. So here he is sitting in the darkness with only his thoughts and imagination and the time to reflect on his own life and the “one who is to come.”
I’d have to believe that he had many expectations about who this Messiah and the Christ were going to be, anticipating something very different than what is experienced, so he sends his own followers to ask, “Are you the one?” Like Jesus, he gives no direct answer to the question but rather encourages them to convey what they have seen and heard. Deep down, if I were John, I would have expected the Christ to free me from the prison, or at times, did he even begin to believe what his followers had told him that he was the one that they had been waiting for. John had much time to reflect upon this Christ, but like us, needed to let go of his own expectations of who the Christ was. We all come with images, metaphors, ideas about who God is supposed to be, the God we create in our own image. Yet, the one we prepare for breaks all those molds, that God can come in the most surprising of ways, enfleshed as one of us. That was beyond the wildest dreams of the people of that time and for many, still is today.
Who is the Christ? What did you come here to see? Even Jesus knew they came looking for someone different. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the fact that God can come in the person of Jesus, that God can come in the least expected way. Like John, in order for us to prepare the way for Christ, we often need to sit in the darkness of our own lives, let go of our own expectations, and be opened to a God that work differently. As Jesus tells us today, one that forgives, one that heals and restores sight, one that gives voice to the poor. I think of Pope Francis being named Person of the Year just this week and when asked about it, he said as long as it leads others to Christ. He steps out of the way and points to the One. It’s not about me, rather, it’s about the Christ.
As James tells us today, in order for us to get to that point in our lives it takes a great deal of patience with ourselves and with God. We can’t expect our lives to change instantaneously. He uses the example of the farmer who must nurture and wait patiently. So too must we in our lives and in letting go of our own expectations of who God should be and allow God to be.
As we move ever closer to the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord, we pray for the patience to wait for the in breaking of our God made flesh. We pray that we may have the courage as the Baptist does to even ask the questions and humbly admit that we aren’t the one, but as prophetic voices in this world, to constantly point the way to the One by forgiving, healing, seeking, and serving those in need, and in turn, God made flesh will truly be among us and within us! Let us give thanks and rejoice!