On this third day of Christmas, we may be feeling a bit let down. The reflection and waiting of Advent is past. We may or may not have found time and space for that much-needed slowing down in the midst of concerts and parties and presents and stockings hung by the chimney with care. The kids are home from school, wrapping paper and bits of ribbon still litter the floors, and new toys, long begged-for and dreamt-of, are on the way to losing their lustre. When my boys were little, by today at least one new toy was already broken. Too much food sits in our bellies and our refrigerators, and the rest of the school break looms.
But today is the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, and if anyone can show us the way to Christ, it is the disciple whom Jesus loved.
The next day, John [the Baptist] was again standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:35-38)
The answer given by the disciple John in the rest of that last verse is, “Rabbi… where are you staying?”
That’s the socially correct answer to Jesus’ question. But sometimes I think I know what was in John’s heart in that moment, what he longed to cry out in answer: “You, dear Jesus, we’re looking for you! We’re looking for love and joy and salvation and righteousness. We’re looking for the Messiah that was foretold, and we know that it’s you.”
They spend the rest of the afternoon with Jesus, and that’s it for John. He’s hooked. He believes; he knows that he has found the Christ and nothing but Jesus’ directions will take him away from that blessed companionship.
As the detritus of Christmas surrounds us, where do we see Jesus? How do we help our children translate the beauty of the baby born to Mary to the man John clung to in such love and devotion? How do we help them conflate the joys of Christmas with their own relationship with God through Christ?
Maybe at dinner tonight, we can light a candle for Christ and then ask, “I wonder what we would do or say if Jesus came to eat turkey leftovers with us?” Children will wonder about Jesus at various ages; encourage that conversation. What if Jesus came to visit and he was the same age as the children at the table? How would they welcome him? How would it be the same and different than having their school friends over for dinner? What if it were the adult Jesus who said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” And who laid his loving hands on them in blessing before he went on his way? (Matthew 19:14)
Maybe the next time our children start bickering – and if that doesn’t happen in the midst of long school vacations at your house, I’m happy to send my boys over for a day or two – we can tell them about John’s mother. She knelt before Jesus and dared to ask him to promise that her two sons would sit at his right and left hands in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 20:20-28)
I wonder if we think she was brave to ask that?
I wonder how John felt when his mother asked Jesus for that promise? (My 10-year-old would probably collapse in a paroxysm of embarrassment.)
I wonder how the other disciples felt when they heard about it?
The Bible tells us they were angry, but Jesus said something we can spend time talking and thinking about: “Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
I wonder what Jesus means about being each others’ servant or slave? What 21st century words can we use to describe how Christ wants us to treat each other?
I wonder how we can find ways to serve one another, remembering that in this Christmas season we’re celebrating the birth of Christ, who came to teach us to love God and to love each other.
Maybe the story and the time coming up with ideas will calm the Christmas chaos, at least for a few minutes.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill to all people.
How does St. John show you how to love Jesus?