BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
3rd Sunday of Advent | December 16, 2018
A few years ago, I was invited to dinner by one of my students and his family the week before Christmas.
Now, I must admit, I was really hesitant to say yes.
For I knew the financial situation of this family. And I did not want them overextending themselves on my behalf, especially right before the holidays.
But they were insistent. So finally, I caved.
I arrived for dinner that night and all of my fears seemed realized. For the meal was extravagant. Homemade dishes and sauces and tortillas. It must have taken them all day.
And as the meal was served, they kept handing me the largest portion, while reserving very little for themselves.
I kept trying to decline, but they would just smile and dump more food on my plate. As if I would never get another chance to eat a meal again.
And then the son looked at me and said, “Fr. Brian, I am so excited you are here. My parents always say that whenever we welcome someone into our house, we are welcoming Jesus. So you coming this week, it is like Christmas has come early.”
I was so humbled in that moment. For I realized that they truly believed what he had spoken.
That each time we show hospitality. We are welcoming Christ into our midst.
That whatsoever we do for the least of God’s people, that we do unto Christ.
I thought a lot about that night as I was reflecting on the readings for this weekend.
For in many ways my student and John the Baptist would have been in good company.
For both understood what we must do to truly prepare for the arrival of Christmas.
And yet, I find their preaching difficult to accept.
For I look in my room and I don’t see just two cloaks, I see a dozen hoodies, a dozen sweaters, and three jackets.
I walk into my kitchen and I see shelves of food. Two fridges full of food. And my concern is that some of it will go bad before I even have a chance to eat it.
I see the numerous blankets piled on my bed. Pairs of shoes scattered on the floor. The smartphone, and IPad and laptop all at my fingertips.
And I wonder what John the Baptist would say to me.
I look around me this time of year and I see our society frantically racing towards December 25.
I see all the purchases being made. Of the newest. And the latest. I see the money we spend and the time we consume shopping and charging and scouring the Internet for the last gift.
I see all the energy we spent in baking and cooking, cleaning and prepping, wrapping and returning, and racing. Always racing from one event to the next, trying to keep track of all the invitations and making sure everyone is satisfied.
I see how on edge we are. How stressed and anxious we’ve become. How short our fuses are.
And I wonder what John the Baptist would say to us.
John, what should we do? How can we truly prepare for the arrival of the Christ child once again?
Whoever has two, should share with those who have none.
Before we add clothing to our closets, can we not empty them of what we do not need?
Can we not help our children to sort through their toys and books, selecting items that can be gifted to another child, another family, another school?
Can we not hold off on that last minute Christmas gift and make a donation instead?
And whoever has food should do likewise.
Who are we welcoming into our home this holiday season?
Is it our neighbor who lives alone and is not travelling for the holidays?
Is it our friend who just lost her mother a few months ago?
Is it our classmate who isn’t going to have a big Christmas this year because dad lost his job?
Are we stopping to welcome the Christ in each person we encounter?
Do we have the time to share a cup of coffee with the homeless man outside WAWA? Or the coworker who is new to the area and missing her holiday traditions with her family?
Can we spare a bag of cookies for the garbage collectors as they finish their routes in the frigid morning air or the UPS worker striving to get every last package to our door in time?
Can we find that time to visit our aunt in the nursing home? Can we truly be at peace with who we are with this season, insteading of pining to be somewhere else.
Here we are my friends, the 3rd Sunday of Advent. A day of rejoicing. A day of preparing. A day of waiting for Christ to arrive.
A day in which we have been sent forth by John the Baptist to heed his words for the sake of the one who is to come. The one who is mightier than he.
Are we ready my friends? Are we ready to welcome Christ once again?
May God be Praised.