As we are heading into a new year, let's not stay home. Let's be like the magi on a mission. Let's go and search diligently for the child until we find him. But let's not go alone. In too many aspects of our lives, we are expected to go-it-alone, figure it out by ourselves, muddle through it on our own. But the magi didn't travel solo, and I don't recommend that we do. If we're going to cross any deserts in the coming year, spiritual or otherwise, it's best to have some travelling companions. For one thing, we are much more likely to find Jesus that way. Jesus himself tells his disciples [in Matthew 18:20], "where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." So, if we want to find Jesus, we'd better find some spiritual friends and pay them a visit.
Every year during the Advent season, I like to poke around the news reports coming in from around the world and take the pulse of Christmas. I guess you could say that I have a vested interest in checking the vital signs, knowing the current health status, of this great celebration of the incarnation. So, for 2013, here are some preliminary results.
Plan or no plan, from Joseph's perspective, the incarnation was one big life complication. God is telling Joseph to love, in spite of all the reasons not to love. God is telling Joseph to forgive Mary when he has every right to forget her. God is telling Joseph to welcome her child even though that child will complicate his life immensely. So, we know what God is telling Joseph, but are we ready for what Joseph is telling us?
Enter John the Baptist. He appears in the wilderness, in the Palestinian version of the Prairie of Prax, to preach to a bunch of North-going and South-going Zax. And all that he has to say to us can be summed up in one word: "Repent!" Literally, turn around! Change direction! You're going the wrong way. Listen to me. I'm here to prepare the way.
Good or bad, we all have memories we go back to at this time of year, and we have a hard time appreciating the Scripture readings for the first Sunday in Advent. That's because they don't let us look back. They force us to look forward. When we we'd rather reminisce about the first coming of Christ, we have to hear about the Second Coming.