A reflection on Matthew 11:2-11
by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
Longing and waiting expectantly. Watching and waiting for whispered words of wisdom. Words of comfort and of grace. Yet a bleak sky and the untold cries of hundreds, thousands, millions do not leave me alone. Do not leave me in a solitude or the hope of silence this night. The noise, I can’t drown it out. The noise of those clamoring for food. The pleas of those suffering illness, disease, famine and war. The calls of those who, like Jesus, demand my soul, my life, my all.
It’s easy to get sucked in. It’s easy to believe that this Christmas, it’s all about me. It’s easy to believe, as I run from shop to shop, selecting the perfect gifts for family and friends – it’s easy to believe that all is well. It’s easy to believe that this Christmas, gathered round the fire, or in the hot tub, or another glass of eggnog, that everything is fine.
Yet there’s everything to indicate that it’s not.
Even if I don’t turn on the TV. Even if I avoid the streets of my neighbourhood where I might see the effects of poverty. It’s there, and it’s gnawing at my sense that all is right with the world. Setting the glitzy, shimmery Christmas lights and the way they sparkle in the snow aside, there’s something underneath.
The truth is, I need this hope. I need this time to hope and believe and to expect the birth of Jesus. I need this time for my faith to be restored, rejuvenated and renewed. I need this time to be reminded of why I do what I do, and for whom.
And so maybe these calls and pleas and cries that reach me from the wilderness are central to my story this advent season. Perhaps they’re not a distraction, but a way of focusing hope in the real-life conditions of this broken world. Maybe these are the voices calling out that will remind me, that will remind us that we need to be ready, we need to prepare, and that we too are called to make straight the way of the Lord.
Maybe these voices from the margins – and not simply the words of that man dressed in soft red robes – are the ones who will help us to better understand the birth we await.
May the God of all hope broaden our focus to embrace the voices crying in the wilderness, so that we might truly be prepared.