There is just one more week of preparations before the great feast of Christmas that lasts until January 8th, for a period of fourteen days. I’m sure all the children are counting the days until they can see and open their presents. So, for two full weeks how have you been watchful, vigilant, preparing the way of the Lord? From John the Baptist’s comments last week we hear his self testimony today at the Jordan from Saint John’s Gospel, as he poured the waters of baptism over those who wanted to repent and change their lives around. His message brought hope and light to those walked in darkness. He did not point to himself but the one who would be the light, our hope and our peace.
When I served as a chaplain in the National Guard, deployed to Kosovo in 2005, even with email and phone communications with the folks back home, there was no better gift than a letter or card that arrived in my mailbox. Even though it took two weeks for a card or letter to arrive, opening the note brought joy, and light into my life; hearing from home was always a treasured moment. A handwritten note was a tangible connection to friends and family members over ten thousand miles away. It was a bit of home in our far flung outpost, even though we were surrounded by peaceable people for the most part.
John the Baptist did come to challenge those who heard him at the Jordan, in the wilderness. He came to ask people to prepare the way of the Lord, to get ready, to be watchful, vigilant and attentive. He did not come to condemn most people, but to invite them into a new way of life, to live in the light of the Lord, to bring justice to people, bring them words and actions of comfort and hope. Like a letter from home, John, out of his physical austerity and prayerfulness, could bring comfort to the people who were searching for light in the darkness.
After December 22nd, the days will start getting longer, the darkness of winter will give way to the light of spring, when new life returns every year. May we get ready to experience the light of lights, hope in the darkness, get ready to welcome Christ into our lives and hearts on Christmas. It is the best letter from home!
Blessings, Father Larry Hendel