What Are You Looking For This Christmas?

Scripture: Matthew 11:2-11

How do you respond to disappointment and frustration?

Maybe it comes in the sudden loss of a job, the unravelling of a close relationship or a recent bleak medical prognosis. 

The last time I heard my good seminary friend Andrew Heard preach a sermon it was over Matthew 11. It was still multiple months before he would die of the cancer which was beginning to ravage his body. Despite his relatively young age of 30, and his wife and daughter, Andrew did not seek pity concerning his impending death. 

Andrew saw a faithful companion in John the Baptist’s questions and uncertainty. The great fanfare of the wild one in the desert boldly proclaiming the time to “Prepare the way” for the Messiah has seemingly receded from John’s prison cell. In the place of earlier declarations of certitude are now lingering questions… “Are you the one who is to come? Should we expect someone else?”

John the Baptist is seemingly wrestling with frustration and disappointment. Though he had proclaimed the coming of Jesus of Nazareth as the coming of the Messiah this was likely not what he expected. Where were the decisive acts of God? Where was the clear enforcement of God’s justice and will on earth? Though John doesn’t come out and bluntly ask it… if Messiah has come to earth than why is his herald rotting in prison?

So many of people look forward to the Christmas season for the excitement of reuniting with dear friends and family members. Others for the gifts we carefully have selected for loved ones and the gifts we will in turn receive. Still others for the celebratory nature of the season or the reminder of God’s coming to dwell among us. But for many others Christmas is a time of memories of loved ones lost. For others financial challenges make gift giving, celebrating, or even time off something out of reach. Many experience the daunting stress of parties, decorating, gift-buying, cooking, baking, and navigating complicated extended family situations. 

It is likely many of us have found ourselves searching for the Christ in Christmas, not because of any secularization of culture, but because of the “muchness, manyness, busyness, and superficiality” to which Richard Foster sees in our age. It is a gift that scripture records even the once confident cousin of Jesus the Messiah wondering and questioning if Jesus is in fact the coming Messiah. His questions make room for ours. 

Jesus’ directs John’s attention toward what has been fulfilled in his life and ministry, rather than what is seemingly left undone. Perhaps, we too will be well served to remember all the ways we can see God’s goodness and Presence in our lives, even as we acknowledge all the ways we struggle to see him in our lives and in our world.