"The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God."
How many of us are brokenhearted today because we think we are in captivity? How many of us can't retire because the nestegg is not quite as lucrative as it once was? How many of us are fearful about the future, about our jobs, about what lies ahead for our financial future?
This indeed has been an advent that many of us would like to forget. Christmas shopping has gotten frugal and even in some cases dangerous--like when that person was trampled to death in a shopping mall in Long Island. We'd like to put aside all of this waiting in fear for the Dow to begin the upward climb. We'd like to find someone to blame for this mess and we'd like to hold someone responsible for fixing all of our problems, don't we?
We'd like to simply skip over the advent of financial recovery and come into the time of Christmas--where we get all the gifts in an instant.
But today's readings call us into greater discernment--not merely about the time of Jesus--but also about our own lives today. What kind of Messiah were people waiting for at the time of Jesus? And what kind of Messiah do we wait for this Christmas?
The people of Jesus' time--the people we read about in today's Gospel were eagerly awaiting someone who would finally bring them out from under Roman authority. All those years of waiting. All those years of eating manna in the desert. All those years of getting up and going out to work for people who didn't respect them. All those years of life which were really not their own. They wanted a Messiah, but they wanted their kind of Messiah...a political one who would lead a revolution--God's revolution. And what did God send them? A helpless little baby, who didn't even have clothes or his own bed. In fact his first bed was a feeding trough for animals.
What kind of Messiah do we hope for? In some ways, we want a God who makes us comfortable again. A God who doesn't ever make us uncomfortable and gives us everything that we want. The dow will rise and we'll be able to retire younger, buy that nice apartment and provide for all of our needs and more.
We want a God who doesn't demand that we deal with those who are far poorer than us in the third world or even those who live on our city streets. We want a God who will stay quiet and humble in a manger and never cause us to think about how we outside people into our barns, our stables, our mangers today. We want a God who is comfortable with the wood of the manger--even with the scratchy hay--but who never takes a step towards the wood of the cross.
This advent, we have had to do a lot of growing in ways that maybe we didn't expect. We have had to stretch ourselves into some uncomfortable areas. But where have we really not stretched yet these three weeks into advent? Where have we lost faith in God? Where have we failed to hear God calling us?
Not only do I fail to see the cry of the poor and fail to bring them good news but I fail to believe that Jesus might have some good news for my life--even in the midst of tragedy. Might I be called to live a more meager lifestyle so that I might devote more time to family, friends and other causes that need my attention? Might I be called to care for the least of those amongst us when I'm certainly not in a destitute situation? Might I be called to look more deeply at my own gifts and talents to figure out what I really need and what I really can and can't live without?
This Advent--let us all ask ourselves--what kind of Messiah do we really need this year?