Matthew 3:1-2 – In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
Somewhere back in my treasury of memories is a mental picture of myself at about age 21 or 22, a student at what was then Ewart College in Toronto, Ontario. I was away from home for the first time, and had looked forward to my first visit home for Christmas. I packed two suitcases and one shoulder bag, small enough to carry on the plane. I struggled and puffed my way to the airport, carrying these very heavy pieces of baggage. There was a long walk along a city block to the nearest subway station, and then hopefully I could rest the suitcases on the escalator during the ride down to the lower level. I then had to inch my way onto the subway train through the crowd, hoping that my suitcases and I would make it all the way in before the doors would close. At that time, there were no wheels on the bottom of suitcases to make the trek easier. After a ride to the end of the subway line, a change of trains, another marathon walk through a train terminal, and a climb up another flight of stairs, I boarded the airport bus. After another half hour ride, I arrived at the airport. One more struggle with those suitcases was necessary, as I walked to the nearest baggage check area. I was so relieved to check the luggage, realizing that I could let it go, and stop worrying about it. When I arrived at Moncton Airport in New Brunswick, it would be taken care of by my taller, stronger brothers.
They could never understand what made my suitcases so heavy. The odd thing was that, when it was time to go back and I repacked my suitcases, I realized that I could have managed with about half of what I had brought with me.
As Christmas approaches once again, it's time for us to carefully check the baggage we carry, and set aside those things which weigh us down.
We are making a journey, and it is important to travel with only what is essential to life. We need to set our sights on the destination, to have a clear vision of where we are going. We are travelling toward the star of Bethlehem, that marked the coming of God's great light into the world.
What has come in the way of our close relationship with God? What blocks our experiencing of Christ at work in us? What is there in our life that needs to be turned around, made lighter by Christ's love and forgiveness? What anger is present within us, that needs forgiveness on our part?
At the foot of the cross, we can leave the baggage we carry around with us. The message of Advent, through the words of John the Baptist, is that we must understand our need for forgiveness, or we cannot appreciate the love of God that comes into the world in Jesus Christ. We can't see the star of Bethlehem clearly, without the shadow of the cross of Golgotha. We cannot receive the joy of Christmas without knowing in a personal way, why it comes to us.
Prayer: Loving and understanding God, fill us with your presence as we undertake the journey toward the Bethlehem manger once again. Enable us to shed all the unnecessary baggage we carry, as we confess to you our sins and shortcomings, and all the anger that is part of our lives. Fill us with the joy of knowing that Jesus Christ was born to save us. Amen.