Friday, Fourth Week of Advent:
Can’t you just feel the anticipation? Here we are so close, one more day and it’s Christmas. A time of wonderful excitement. That’s what is in our readings this morning. It is best expressed in the Psalm response for the day, “Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.” No more negative thoughts, no more feelings that we can’t or shouldn’t, now is the time for everything that is new and hopeful.
That is certainly what the Gospel presents. Elizabeth gives birth to their long awaited son. As if to emphasize how new and amazing this is, he is not named for anyone in the family but a new name, John, which describes exactly what has happened, Yahweh has shown favor. This is why the villagers are amazed because there is no precedent for naming a child other than an existing family name. John is the living example of doing something “out of the box.” Zechariah, of course, knows exactly what’s going on and his first reaction is to use his renewed voice to praise God for such a wonderful gift.
Here we are one day from Christmas with all our expectations still jumping. This annual celebration of Christ bringing light into the darkness. Here in the middle of winter, cold, bleak and dark, we’re about to receive the Light of the world. Whatever has made you hang your head, the psalm speaks to you, “Lift up your head and see…” We have been in the dark long enough. Now’s the time for new life and joy because old things are passing away. They are being transformed. That’s what the first reading is saying to Israel, the refiner’s fire will purify the gold and silver. We may have had trouble finding God, we may have wondered if God was ever going to be there for us but now we will be transformed into giddy little children with a new toy, a new joy, seeing the gifts of God for ourselves.
I think Malachi points us to the kind of transformation we should expect. This is a transformation that turns the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. These are changes of heart, changes of outlook, changes inside ourselves that make all the difference in who we are. Then maybe we’ll find our own voices of praise and be like Zechariah who learned that anything is possible with God, including a new born son. Christmas may only come once each year, however its joy is available anytime. We have to be alert for the person or situation that is God’s messenger and be willing to accept something new.