There once was a man, his name was John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light, he was there to show the way to the light. (The Message translation)
In this time of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the Christ-Mass, or the symbolic coming of Christ into the world of humanity, I think John the Baptist embodies all our Advent preparations.
Although it may seem like it, we ourselves are not literally bringing light into the world. We are not bringing light into the world by covering our homes in lights and festive decorations. We are not bringing light into the world by bringing a Christmas tree into our homes and covering it in lights and ornaments. We are not bringing light into the world by lighting our Advent wreaths in our homes each evening or in church on Sundays. We are not bringing light into the world with even the most thoughtful and carefully selected of gifts.
So then, why are we doing all this? Certainly, in these COVID-19 times these are healthy and safe activities that distract us from the daily sickness and separateness of our lives. But there’s something more than that. These seasonal activities point us to the light of Christ that is to come. Our exchange of gifts may point us to the strength of connection. Our Christmas tree may point us to hopefulness and resilience symbolized by trees that stay green all year. Our Advent wreath may show us how even one candle can break into the darkness. How blessed we are to have all these rich and lovely symbols to point the way.
But, if these are just symbols pointing way, what is the deeper call from God? I’m sure it was not easy for John the Baptist to devote his entire life to preparing the way for someone else, to show the way to the light. How are we called to show the way to the light in our own world today? At St. Catherine’s we often share gifts of time and treasure with Emmaus House at Christmas. This year, we may need to look even closer to home to be that gift of human connection to our own family and closest neighbors.
This year may be one of the most challenging years for us to show the way to the light of Christ. I am so thankful to have my St. Catherine’s family to help me through this. I pray that this season of preparation is grounded in truth and the real disappointments of this past year but still pointing to the true light, the light of Christ.