Is 35:1-6a, 10 | Ps 146 | Jas 5:7-10 | Mt 11:2-11
This weekend, we hear of John the Baptist sitting in prison. He waits for the one who is to come. No angel bursts his bonds. No heavenly blast levels the stones to release him. The holy prophet expects death, for he had dared to speak out, challenging those in power. There is anticipation outside the walls, but the excitement passes him by. He waits in darkness.
This year, all the excitement that surrounds Christmas may pass some of us by as well. We may be praying for healing. We may ache for reconciliation. We may dwell in deep grief or loneliness or heartache. Christmas can be a particularly painful time for some of us. Like the John the Baptist, we may feel blanketed in darkness.
But John the Baptist wasn’t just a reed swaying in the wind. Jesus says of him that there has been none greater. From his Jewish roots, he knew to hold fast to the Lord who loves the just, to the Most High who sets captives free, to the One who causes the desert to bloom again. And Jesus showed him an answer to fuel his faith: Look, the lame walk! Lepers are cleansed! The dead are raised! The darkness was not the final answer.
Advent remains a contemplative time, a season for quiet hopefulness. Isaiah says, “Be strong! Fear not!” We too are waiting for the one who is to come. We know the conclusion to the story of Advent: Baby Jesus was born. Yet we are still waiting for the final dawning – to see the glory of God – the sight of that final rose-tinted sky on the horizon. Jesus shows us answers today as well, revealing himself sometimes in very small ways—in the sparkle of snow, in the tiny nailbed of a newborn infant, and in the smile of a loved one. The darkness is not our final answer either.
These past couple weeks we have been taking in the edginess of Advent. We are looking for light. Yet sometimes the darkness of the winter and the challenges of life can make us feel as if we are sitting with John the Baptist as he waits for one to come. Where in your life could you use more of the Lord’s light? In what situations could you use courage?
And at the same time, what “small ways” have you seen and experienced that offer you hope? Everything beautiful is a hint of eternity. What cracks of light have illumined your darkness? What can you name and give thanks for all that is helping prepare you for paradise?