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Christmas is Ruined | Father Randall Phillips

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Matthew 11: 2-3

Christmas is a time of joyful expectation. And yet our expectations can take us down the road to disappointment, frustration, even futility, especially at this time of the year. It is surprising what can ruin Christmas. Last Sunday we listened to a fiery John the Baptist who warned us to flee from the wrath to come. He told us that one mightier than himself was coming and he would burn the chaff in an unquenchable fire. Today we hear the same John the Baptist, now in prison, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” There’s hardly a more poignant question in the New Testament. Jesus’ preaching and his actions were not at all what John had expected. It’s not at all with John had proclaimed, what he told people was coming. And now, in his last days, John is filled with doubt as to the purpose and value of his life. It’s not the way any of us want to spend our last days. Contrary to popular thinking, I’ve convinced the reason that people are disappointed with Christmas, and even have become hardened toward Christmas, is not that our expectations are too great. It’s that our expectations have become too small. Burnt dinner, family argument, illness, not being able to obtain the gift you really wanted to give someone, such as these things ruin Christmas. Not to mention some much bigger human concerns in our world: such as poverty and homelessness, the lack of respect for life, all the isms, and those who are mourning. This time of Advent teaches us how to long, how to hope, how to be vulnerable to failure. There is no coming unless we travel this route. If we cannot be taken to the very limit of ourselves and have our hope forged against the anvil of disappointment, who we are looking for is merely an extension of our self, not the Holy One and who is truly coming.

Are you the one who is to come? Or should we look for another? If all we are looking for this year is the perfect Christmas, then we are most definitely looking for another. We are not looking for Christ. If we are looking for someone who will make us happy, rather than someone who called us to be happiness for others; if we are looking for someone who will reward the faithful, rather than one who will embrace all people; if we are looking for one who will punish those evil doers, rather than one in whom there is no violence; then we are looking for another, we are not looking for Christ.

Christmas will be disappointing if we hope for anyone or anything less than the Holy One. Christmas will be joyful peaceful come what may if we know the presence of Christ.