My kids don’t get it, but I love the Hallmark Christmas movies. I understand that they are predictable, but I still love them. I like the fact that, despite the last-minute crisis that threatens to destroy a budding relationship, somehow the crisis gets avoided and, in the end, everyone is happy. What I like is the happy ending.
That’s something we don’t always experience in our everyday lives. In reality, things don’t always go smoothly. We face challenges – in our health, our jobs, at school, in our relationships – and we don’t always feel like we experience the same happy ending that we get with a Hallmark movie. Or, so it seems to us at times. That’s why the gift of Advent is such a great time for us to renew our faith and our hope.
We often hear from the Prophet Isaiah during Advent because he is foretelling the coming of the ultimate happy ending – the Messiah. This Sunday, we hear of how that will happen (Isaiah 35:1-10). Isaiah tells how the parched lands will rejoice and bloom. He uses the symbolism of the desert becoming lush and fertile to tell us that One is coming who will fill the emptiness, the dryness, in our lives.
Isaiah is saying to us that, if we open our minds and our hearts to God, our spiritual blindness, deafness and other limitations will be wiped away and we receive salvation – the ultimate happy ending. We see that same message in the Gospel (Matthew 11:2-11). John the Baptist is trying to confirm that Jesus is the Messiah and, while in prison, he sends his disciples to ask that question of Jesus.
Jesus responds just as Isaiah had foretold – He says to tell John what you see and hear: the blind see, the deaf hear, physical limitations are healed. In other words, Jesus says to John’s disciples and to us – I have come to do what God, through the Prophet Isaiah, said would happen. Those who were healed by Jesus had one thing in common – they had faith and hope in the power of God and in God’s love for each and every one of us.
Advent is a great opportunity for us to refocus our minds and hearts on God’s power in our lives and His love for us, not just for the four weeks leading to Christmas, but for every day, all year long, to believe that God only wants what is best for us. That takes faith and hope, even when we feel like things are challenging.
That’s the message that James has for us in the Second Reading this week (James 5:7-10) – that we need to be patient and diligent in that faith and hope because the coming of the Lord is at hand. Even when we experience bumps along the way on our journey, we need to stay people of hope. That’s our job, through faith and hope – to be ready – be ready for that Hallmark experience – a truly happy ending!