Third Sunday of Advent – B
There was a little boy named Ralph who was trying out for the Christmas Pageant. He wanted the role of St. Joseph, but he was given the role of the innkeeper. Ralph was not happy about this. So on the night of the Christmas Pageant, Ralph decided to take sweet revenge.
Mary and Joseph came to the inn door and Joseph said to Ralph, “Do you have any room for Mary and me in your inn?”
Ralph smiled and said, “I’ve got tons of room – come on in!”
Well, the pageant director began having a breakdown, the audience was stunned, and Mary and Joseph were bewildered. Joseph leads Mary inside the inn, looks around, and Joseph, not to be outdone or undone, comes out and says to Ralph, “Your place is a dump! Mary and I would rather stay in a stable with the animals than stay here! Come on, Mary!”
God will not be outdone or undone in His plan to save us. We hear the Scriptures of Advent, with all the Old Testament prophets pointing the way to Jesus Christ. And we hear about people being unfaithful to the Lord. And still, God plans to send His Son to save this world. God will not be outdone or undone.
John the Baptist was part of God’s plan, the last and the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, who came announcing the coming of the Messiah, the Savior. John the Baptist said, in today’s Gospel, “I am the voice of one crying in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”
We all have a part to play in this pageant of God’s love, and sometimes we mess up our parts. But God’s plan will not be outdone or undone. God offers us His mercy and gets us back on track again so that we can “make straight the way of the Lord.”
Jim Campbell tells a story about a Christmas when he was a boy that had been a very painful one. But looking at it many Christmases later, he sees how important that experience was for him, and how it caused him to become even more aware of his part in God’s plan.
Two days before Christmas, when Jim was a small boy, his mother went to the hospital. His father was serving in the military overseas. And so a church family, the Hansens, took in the Campbell family for Christmas. Jim remembers standing before the Christmas tree in the Hansen house on Christmas Eve, when he really wanted to be in his own house, with his own family, with their own tree.
The Hansen family always exchanged one gift on Christmas Eve, and the rest on Christmas morning. So they had a gift for each of the Campbell kids. Jim says that when he opened his gift and found a pair of mittens, he thought, “What a dumb gift! I already have a pair of mittens!” But he was taught to be polite, so he smiled and said thank you to the Hansens.
Then all night long he had “mitten dreams”: mittens lost, mittens found, mittens given – and it was a dream that never quite left him. He began collecting mittens for people who were cold. It became a passion in his life.
Then one Christmas night, he was taking a walk around the church grounds. On a bank of snow, he saw a pair of mittens. Right next to it was the Nativity scene. Jim described it as one with plastic statues with lights inside. And there was Baby Jesus in the manger with His little hands outstretched on that cold December night.
Jim put those left-behind mittens on Baby Jesus’ hands. He said it was kind of an absurd thing to do – after all, the statue was plastic. But he remembered something that Jesus had said: “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for Me.”
Jim remembered all of the mittens he had provided for people who were cold. He thought about the gifts that people had put under the Giving Tree for families in need. He thought about food and bakery that was prepared for the hungry and the homeless, and about people that were visiting others who might be lonely – all the good that was going on so that others could have a more loving Christmas.
Jim was remembered the grace of Christmas that could turn stingy people into generous people. That could transform people who were over-worked and over-tired into people who had new energy. That could enable people who felt unloved to see and appreciate the love that was all around them.
Jim put those mittens on the hands of the Baby Jesus in the manger. And he did it remembering that what we do for others, we do for Jesus.
Jim played his part in God’s story, and he realized that God’s plan to save us is so infinitely rich that there is more to appreciate each year. And, in terms of God’s bountiful love for us, that God will never be outdone or undone.