Christmas Is Worth Waiting For
by HW in HI
based on Matthew 11:2-11
There is a strong contrast between Advent and Christmas. Maybe it is a little like
waiting to have a baby, and then getting that baby. When were expecting a child, we
have lots of ideas about what the child will be like: the color of hair and eyes, more
like mom or more like dad, aunties wild laugh, or real quiet like great grandpa. So
we wait for the baby to come and we try to get things ready. But when the baby comes,
everything changes. It is sort of like we thought it would be, but also very different.
The baby looks mostly like a baby. We are needed all the time. But it has its own life,
its own direction. And everything changes. Our lives are never the same again.
During Advent we get ready. We get ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus and we get
ready for his coming again. Once Jesus came into the world, things were never the same
again. Never. Now Jesus was not the kind of savior that everyone had in mind. He was a
different kind of baby. No prince, although we call him the prince of peace. And certainly
no king, although we call him the king of kings. He was born to regular working people.
Not in Jerusalem. Not to a rabbi. But to Mary and Joseph. The people of Israel had been
waiting more than 500 years for him. Prophet after prophet had expected him to come and
The last prophet before Jesus came was John the Baptist. John was just a few years
ahead of Jesus, and he warned the people to prepare for Jesus.
Now, in todays Gospel from Matthew, we find John in prison. As we heard last
week, John was an extremely outspoken kind of guy, and he had angered Herod and Herods
wife. John is in prison, and he hears reports of this and that, people are talking a good
deal about a young man, a teacher and preacher, who is very different than any they had
seen before. And John, the prophet who came to herald the coming of Christ John is
not sure what is going on. So he sends word to Jesus, Are you the one?
Is it Advent or is it Christmas? Are we waiting or are we celebrating? If youre
the one, youre not exactly what we had in mind. So John wants to know, Jesus,
are you the One?
And that is a question for the whole world. We live in a world that celebrates
Christmas, but gives very little thought to what Christmas is. In a very real sense it is
still unthinkable for us to understand that God came among us, not valuing the wealth and
human comforts we value. God came among us living in a working-class home in an occupied
country, and his idea of saving had nothing to do with taking down the Roman army.
It is a little like giving birth, and finding out the baby is nothing like you thought
he or she would be. Today, even John the Baptist isnt sure. But Jesus has the
answer. And it is simple. He tells Johns followers: Go and tell John what you
hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the
deaf hear, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no
offense at me.
The savior of Israel did not come riding on a white steed, taking up armor against the
enemy. Rather he came walking, healing all that came to him and preaching the good news.
And that is Johns answer.
We are an Advent people. We have the great joy of Jesus, the Messiah. And we have been
asked to wait for him to come again. To prepare and to wait. And from time to time, we
will find ourselves asking, Are you the One? This has happened a few times
during my life. There was a fellow named Jim Jones who led people off to live in a
commune, and some thought he was the one. There was a fellow named David Koresh, who said
he was the one, and people went with him to live in some sort of commune in Waco Texas.
There is fellow named Sun Yung Moon, and some say he is the one.
The truth is, we are tired of waiting. We Christians have been waiting 2,000 years for
Christ to come again. Perhaps we have not always waited very well, but we have been
waiting. And it is normal for us to want to ask, Are you the One? But Jesus
told us how to figure it out. If we think we have found the Christ, we can expect that he
would be healing people in large numbers. We can expect he would be preaching the good
news, and especially among the poor. It is unlikely that he would instruct his followers
to come live with him, probably he would move around a good deal. In any case, it is not
likely that he or she would be here to meet our expectations of a savior.
Christmas has become popular throughout the world. But not Advent. Waiting for the
unknown is difficult. Celebrating is fun. But celebrations ring hollow when we dont
know what it is we are celebrating.
This week I was down with a cold one day, and I have to admit that I turned on
television. I was watching one of those at-home shows, where they show how to cook and
garden and decorate and what not. This particular one interests me because the shows
host is in her mid-20s. She took us through turkeys stuffed with mashed potatoes, to
wire mesh Christmas tree ornaments and table setting with pine cones and bricks sprayed
gold. It was pretty much the celebrating of Christmas without a reason. But it was
television, and I wasnt expecting much. Then she said something that woke me up. She
said it was important to remember what Christmas is all about. Great, I thought. Were
going to hear something about Jesus. But what she said was, The real meaning of
Christmas is the family dinner.
Something is lost, something very big is lost, when Christmas is celebrated without
Christ. And when we celebrate Christ, we have to remember that God gave us what we needed,
not what we wanted. God is not Santa Claus looking at our list of wants. Santa celebrates
God, but God is bigger than that. Santa is just a little part of the celebration.
The real celebration, the true celebration has something to do with God caring so much
for us that he came and lived among us. Not as a prince but as a healer. Not as a warrior,
but a bringer of peace. Jesus came as someone worth waiting for, the fulfillment of the
great prophecies of old, the prophecies of the Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah wrote, The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the
desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice
with joy and singing. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf
unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for
joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the
burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of
jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes. A highway shall be
there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it
shall be for God's people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.
And if not even fools go astray, there is hope for us all. Amen.