What should we do?
This seems like a common question of many of us this time of year. Should we bake cookies, decorate the tree, wrap presents, get the cards done, clean the house?
And this is the exact question people posed to John the Baptist in today’s gospel. They too were anticipating the coming of the Messiah. They had waited a very long time. They had lots of time to prepare. Now the coming of the Messiah seemed more immanent and they doubted their readiness. How human is that! John’s response—be the people God calls you to be. Give your extra coat to someone in need, don’t take more than you need for yourself, share your food, be satisfied with your wages, don’t spread untruths about others.
At this time we are also beginning the Jubilee Year of Mercy. The notion of ‘jubilee
years’ comes from the Jewish tradition. Every fifty years a jubilee was proclaimed to set things back to where they belonged. Land was left dormant for the year to recover, debts and mortgages were forgiven, and slaves were set free. Everyone and everything had a fresh start! They recognized that all we have is a gift from God and needs to be given to all and to be cared for—stewardship!
As we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy, these words of John the Baptist have fresh meaning. We are reminded of who we are called to be. We have an opportunity to focus on getting things back in right balance between God and us and between the world and us.
Preparation for Christmas indeed includes preparing our homes to welcome guests. As we decorate, exchange gifts, and welcome guests, let’s remember that the guest of honor is Jesus. And it is because of God’s unconditional and unearned love that we celebrate Jesus’ presence with us always.
As we rush to prepare to celebrate with family and friends, I realize that I, like the Jewish people in the time of Christ, need to look deeper as to how I will re-welcome
the Messiah this year. How am I being the person God calls me to be? How am I present to those in need—of essentials such as food, clothing, and heat, companionship and friendship? How does my life help others to see and experience the love of God reborn in the world today?