At this time of the year everyone wants to live in Minneapolis, don’t they? After all we have the best chances of a white Christmas. It really isn’t Christmas if you don’t have snow, right? Christmas has to be white, without snow it really isn’t Christmas. Driving around these days it seems like there are more and more lights, everything is decorated; not just the malls and stores, but even streetlights flash a bright red and green. That is what Christmas looks like, lights lots of them, plenty of decorations. I imagine that most of you are busy at home. You have to decorate the tree, bake special foods and wrap presents. That after all is what Christmas is all about: special foods and plenty of gifts. When you have presents under the tree and food in the oven, you know that Christmas is here.
We know that that isn’t true. Christmas isn’t about snow. It never snowed in Bethlehem and most people have never ever had a white Christmas. It might look pretty, but it isn’t what Christmas is all about. The decorations truly are beautiful. But the lights and the decorations are also not what Christmas is about. Presents are great. I love to get presents and I also like to give presents, but even if we don’t have the money to buy a single present, even if we don’t get a single thing this year, presents aren’t what Christmas looks like.
What does Christmas look like? What is the spirit of Christmas? How can we know that it is Christmas? We certainly don’t want to miss it. Christmas obviously is about Christ. You don’t have to tell a Catholic to put Christ in Christmas. We know that one. If we can see Christ we can see Christmas. If we have Christ we have Christmas.
We are not alone in our questioning though. John the greatest of all prophets, as Jesus says in today’s gospel “Among those born of women there is no greater than John the Baptist.” So here this great disciple of Jesus has the same question. He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the one? Or, should we look for someone else?”
And how does Jesus respond? What is Jesus’ proof that he is in fact the one? That there is snow on the ground? There are lights and decorations galore? That the tree is decorated with dozens of presents under it? No, none of these things are signs of the kingdom. Jesus goes back to the prophet Isaiah. Our first reading for today, we will know the messiah is here when the desert and parched land bloom with abundant flowers, the glory of God is revealed when the blind see, the lame walk, lepers cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead raised and the poor hear the good news proclaimed to them.
That is what Christmas looks like. We don’t need to look for the perfect gift, we don’t need to decorate the most beautiful tree, we don’t have to cook a wonderful supper and it doesn’t matter if it snows on the 24th or not. Those things are not going to help us to see Jesus; in fact they probably will only make it harder to see him.
“Blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” We are blessed when we recognize Jesus. So our call as Christians this year is the same call that it always is, the same call that it was in the time of John the Baptist. We are called to see the signs of the Kingdom. If we can recognize Jesus we will be blest in deed. If we can see Jesus we will celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
But it is hard. Have you seen any blind cured? Have you seen lame people walk again? Have you seen people cured of leprosy? The presence of Christ is found in deeds of healing and preaching. If we aren’t seeing Christ, it is because we aren’t being Christ. Let me say that again, if you aren’t seeing Christ it is because you aren’t being Christ.
We are the ones. We are the ones who are called to be the presence of Christ in the world today. We are the ones who reach out to the blind and the lame. We are the ones who help the poor, the widows and the orphans. If not us who?