Anticipation is a wonderful thing. From the time we were children, all the way through adulthood we daydream about wonderful things to come. A birthday party, graduation, getting married or our first job: they all point to brighter days ahead.
During Jesus' day everyone was in eager anticipation of the coming Messiah. Life was difficult under Roman occupation, and there was much buzz about what the Messiah would do to liberate God's people when he arrived. One of the road signs that pointed to the coming Messiah would be the arrival of Elijah the prophet, the one who would usher in the anointed one. Elijah was one of Israel's great prophets who challenged the prophets of Baal and did many other great works. While Elijah was a great prophet, it was the prophet who came after Elijah, Elisha, who received a double anointing and went on to do even greater works. Elisha raised the dead and multiplied loaves to feed a multitude.
John the Baptist arrived on the scene just before Jesus to prepare the way for the much-awaited king of Israel. Jesus identifies John as Elijah who was to come and prepare the way for a new era in Israel's history. John made his debut at the Jordan River, in the wilderness just north of the Dead Sea, the very place where Elijah was taken up in a chariot centuries before. John prepared God's people for the Messiah with a baptism of repentance. In order to prepare for this new era, John proclaimed that there must be a change of heart followed by deeds appropriate to the kingdom of God. As Elisha did greater works than Elijah, so would Jesus go on to do greater works than John the Baptist.
In Matthew 11:2-11, John the Baptist asks, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: 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."
Each of these miracles mentioned by Jesus recall Isaiah's prophecies (Isaiah 26:19; 29:18; 35:4-6; 61:1-2) about a servant figure who would heal God's people.
In the liturgical calendar we now begin the season of Advent, the period of anticipation for the Lord's arrival. Are you ready for a new era with Christ? Are you in need of healing and restoration in your relationships and personal conduct? What would be more exciting this Christmas, three or four new CD's, new clothes, or for your family relationships to be healed or the anxiety you are experiencing to subside?
Something much greater than material gifts awaits us this Christmas. Jesus wants to heal us and restore broken lives, but it requires a change on our part. Through repentance and humility the road is made straight for Jesus to come into our lives this Christmas season.
Anticipating the Christmas season is a wonderful thing, but so often we aim so low and settle for a few material gifts. Allow Christ to bless you with his peace and vast provisions this year. If you're like me, every Christmas I buy presents for my loved ones, but I have a hard time waiting, because I want to give my gifts to them early. As much as we desire all that God has for us, He desires to give us a gift even more. In the words of St. Augustine, "God thirsts that we would thirst for Him."
Things To Do:
1. Knowing that Jesus is the answer to your problems, what needs to change in the major areas of your life for Him to enter into those areas? What major roadblocks can you remove before Christmas?
2. What good works can you do this Advent season that would translate into a great blessing for someone else? Perhaps you could volunteer to help at Sharing & Caring Hands in Minneapolis or visit the elderly who may not have any family with whom to share the holidays.