This is the third Sunday in Advent and it is the day when the emphasis begins to shift. For the last two Sundays we have heard a great deal about the Day of Judgment and the doom and destruction of the Final Coming. But today there are more candles lit on our Advent Wreath than are not burning. We are getting close to our Lord’s birth – his first coming, and we hear Isaiah’s beautiful vision:
“THE WILDERNESS AND THE DRY LAND SHALL BR GLAD,
THE DESERT SHALL REJOICE AND BLOSSOM;
LIKE THE CROCUS IT SHALL BLOSSOM ABUNDANTLY,
AND REJOICE WITH JOY AND SINGING.”
And our Gospel echoes a Christ-filled world. When John the Baptist sends his message to Jesus “Are you he who is to come or shall we look for another?” Jesus answers by describing a ministry of healing.
“…THE BLIND RECEIVE THEIR SIGHT AND THE LAME WALK. LEPERS ARE CLEANSED AND THE DEAF HEAR, AND THE DEAD ARE RAISED UP, AND THE POOR HAVE GOOD NEWS PREACHED TO THEM.”
He comes to heal the sick, including the sick of spirit. He comes to give sight to the blind, including those who are blind with anger and disappointment. He comes to give the ability to move to the lame, including those who are immobilized by fear and depression and addiction.
But none of these good things can come into our world if we are so preoccupied and anxious and busy that we lose sight of the reason for the season of Advent. We need to be on guard at this point in Advent lest we forget that it is the birth of the baby Jesus that we are preparing for. God came among us as a child, a baby, and we must not forget the baby.
The “one who is to come” — the Messiah – the Baby Jesus – is sometimes very hard to remember. It’s difficult to focus on Advent as a season of preparation for Jesus’ birth. The society around us has become very secularized and we are all sensitive to not offending those of other faiths. And, there are a great many distractions.
This is the point in the season when we begin to feel overwhelmed. The anxiety begins to mount. How will I get it all done? There are the presents to buy, to wrap, to mail. Thank goodness for Amazon! Do you think I could get them to deliver my tree this year? How about a decorated tree? That would sure save time. There are the cards to address, but maybe my secretary could do that. Oh, right, I don’t have a secretary. And how much is all this going to cost? Isn’t this the year I promised myself I would cut back? We try very hard to attend every single holiday celebration and to please everyone; we work ourselves into frenzy in the annual attempt. We get too tired and we drink too much and eat too much, and we expect too much. We expect too much of each other and we expect too much of ourselves.
In the face of all that, how can we prepare for the birth of God? How do we manage not to forget the baby Jesus? It’s easy to get caught up in the tinsel and the toys, the cooking and the cousins, and forget the true meaning of Christmas.
So I want to tell you my favorite Advent story to help us remember. This is not an autobiographical story, but it is a true story. It’s the story of a friend of fine and it happened many years ago when my friend was a young mother living in Texas. Her children were Robin who was almost four and Joel who was almost two, and Annie, who was barely three months old. My friend’s husband had been away on a business trip for almost a week and she was feeling a bit of cabin fever being cooped up in the house with three preschoolers, and since they were running out of things anyway, she decided she was going to take all three kids and head for the supermarket.
It took her the better part of the morning just to get herself and the three kids up and diapered and dressed and breakfasted, but she finally got everyone out of the house. She strapped Robin and Joel in their car seats and put Annie in her baby carrier in the family van and off they went.
When they arrived it was a struggle to find a parking space and to get from the parking lot into the store with the three children but my friend carried Annie in her baby carrier and held Joel’s hand and Joel held Robin’s hand.
They got a shopping card and put the baby carrier in it and put Joel in the cart’s child seat and she pushed the cart with one hand while holding on to Robin with the other. They went up and down all the aisles and chose all their groceries and finally made their way to the checkout counter. My friend unloaded each item onto the conveyor belt and the clerk rang it all up and loaded the groceries into bags, but because there was no room for the bags in the cart with the baby seat, she set Annie, who by this time was well into her morning nap, on the counter where the bags were stacked. Eventually my friend found her wallet in the diaper bag and dug out her debit card, paid for the purchases, got her receipt, and pushed the cart out to the parking lot and loaded the groceries into the back of the van and strapped Robin into her child seat and Joel into his child seat and got herself into the van and buckled up and started the van and was headed out of the parking lot when from the back seat she heard Robin say, “Mommy, you forgot the baby.” And to her embarrassment my friend realized that in her busy-ness and preoccupation with getting the job done, she had left Annie on the check out counter. Of course, she hurried back into the store and Annie was fine, still sleeping and none the wiser and all the clerks were laughing, watching the sleeping infant.
The moral of the story, what my friend learned about shopping with three small children, is the same message with which I’d like to close. Advent is the season of preparation for the coming of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we approach Christmas, please, please, DON’T FORGET THE BABY!!!