3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10
December 15, 2013
“Are you the one?”
John the Baptist is in jail for preparing the Way of the Lord and has heard of Jesus. He wants to know if Jesus is the Messiah. So, he sends disciples to inquire, “Are you the one?”
Of course Jesus is the one but he doesn’t answer with a “yes” but by directing them to look at the signs he has done.
John made his life all about “preparing the way of the Lord”. He has been waiting for Jesus the Messiah but he isn’t the only one who has been waiting.
The Israelites had been waiting for centuries. Ever since the time of King David there had been prophecies about a coming Messiah. During Advent, we hear of messianic prophecies found in the writings of Isaiah.
They had been waiting a long time. At times, they won’t always a patient people. Now, Jesus has been born, an occasion for rejoicing.
Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “rejoice”. During the first half of Advent our readings focus on the Second Coming but now we turn our attention more towards the first coming that we will celebrate at Christmas. Without a doubt, Christmas is a time to rejoice.
Yet, Christmas is still a week and a half away. We aren’t there yet. We may not like waiting but we must.
Waiting may not be easy but it is a natural part of life. James speaks of the farmer waiting for the fruit to grow. It takes time for the trees to be fruit. There are times there is nothing for the farmer to do but wait.
Waiting can try our patience but waiting isn’t the only thing that can try our patience.
People can try our patience. Sometimes by what they do. Maybe they don’t do something the way we want it. Maybe they are ahead of us in the store and moving too slowly. Sometimes they try our patience by standing in the way of the way we want to do things.
Maybe the Christmas crowds at the stores try your patience.
Maybe all the extra people at our Christmas Masses try your patience. Normally, our 4 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve is packed. Do the crowds try your patience? Can’t find a seat in church? Maybe you will have to park a few blocks away because of all the cars.
Will this try your patience?
Maybe but looking at things as Jesus would, the problem isn’t that so many people come to church at Christmas. No, the problem is they don’t come the rest of the year.
They will have different reasons for not coming the rest of the year. Of course, some are visitors, just in town for the holidays. Others may not feel connected or worthy.
We don’t know all the reasons people don’t come every Sunday. What we can do at Christmas is make them feel welcome. We need to give them an experience that they want to come back for.
We will decorate the church to make it beautiful for all who come. Our musicians are practicing for the Christmas music to be ready. The pastor will prepare a wonderful homily. We are working on booklets to hand out at the end of the Christmas Masses like we did last year that will invite everyone to be a regular part of our parish.
Will you do your part?
What is your part to encourage the people to come back?
I think a lot of what you as the congregation can do to help our “visitors” come back each Sunday is a simple matter of attitude and kind gestures.
First, come with a smile on your face! It’s Jesus’ birthday.
Don’t come in grumpy because you had to park a few blocks away. Smile because there are so many people here!
Don’t have a sour face when you find someone sitting in your pew. Be glad they are here.
Maybe you’ll get here early to get a seat and someone will come later and ask you to squeeze over to make room. Don’t give them a dirty look. Move over and tell them how wonderful it is to see so many people here. Maybe even say “I wish all these people were here every week.”
And perhaps the simplest of all is to simply say “Merry Christmas” to all who come. But don’t say it with a gloomy face. Say it with a smile that says we’re glad you’re here.
Welcoming people here can start now. When you see people you know, invite them to come here for Christmas. Maybe it will be just the nudge they need.
Whether they know it or not, everyone is searching for something and that something is God. Pray that we always offer an encounter with God’s love for all who come here.
Father Jeff, I thought this was a great homily – definitely one of your best in recent memory. I was trying to think about why I liked it so much (yes, it has a good message, but you didn’t say anything earth-shattering) – and I think it was because your delivery was so very authentic. Your connection with people over life’s little annoyances was very real, and your joy at the coming of Christmas and the arrival of so many new faces in church was very apparent and inspiring. I think it’s that honest/passionate preaching that will result in a packed church on more days than just Christmas!
Thank you very much.