The celebration of Christmas is almost upon us, and in today’s scriptures we’re given lots of hints about what we might expect. From my reading, seems we’re being told to expect the unexpected.
First, there’s the covenant messenger whose appearance might be hard to take. While this close to the holiday we might be hoping for light, peace and joy, we are promised “the refiner’s fire” or the “fuller’s lye” – a process of purification that sounds somewhat painful. Then Elijah makes an appearance to make sure that we have our priorities straight; that our hearts are in the right place.
Finally, as we stand with the neighbors and relatives of Elizabeth, we witness the wonder of the naming of John and the “cure” of Zechariah: signs that God is active in our world.
Are you wondering what this all means for us? I think we are being advised to open ourselves to discover the Messiah in unexpected places:
- In the home of the frail elderly woman to whom we are delivering meals;
- In the bus shelter inhabited by the homeless man;
- On the highway median where the young woman is panhandling;
- In the office break room where our co-workers are gearing up to face the desperation of their clients.
Are you ready to submit to the purification that prepares you to meet Emmanuel — “God with us”? Have you taken the time to make sure you have your priorities straight? Is your heart in the right place? Lift up your heads and see: your God is near at hand.
Jean Beil, rounding out a long career in Catholic Charities, now serves as the regional coordinator for Caritas North America. She lives in the Mount Vernon area of Alexandria with her husband and two cats and is active in her parish music and funeral planning ministries.
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