Jesus said to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
And I tried. Every year, I did my very best to stay awake.
Yet in all my years, never once did I catch Santa Claus.
He was a tricky, tricky man. He had to be – I mean, the whole world in one night? Knowing who was naughty and who was nice? Constantly watching every person, then delivering joy and good tidings to all the good girls and boys?
I wonder what his credit card bill looked like on January 1st?
I would’ve asked him, probably, had I caught him. I always just seemed to miss it.
I usually was asleep, sometimes I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, other moments I just had my back turned for a minute it seemed, and poof, gifts under the tree. We didn’t even have a chimney! Mom said he came through the front door, so some nights on Christmas eve I would camp out there, waiting.
Never heard a sound.
Years later I would discover why I never caught Santa Claus. There never was one to begin with, it was just my mom and dad.
All that waiting! All the anticipation! It was all just a rouse, and I fell for it. I had been searching, and waiting, and hoping to see Santa Claus and it was just my parents! I saw them every day! Ugh, the supreme disappointment.
If I wanted to see Santa Claus, all I had to do was look in front of me. Ridiculous.
You know, it was the first time I doubted God. Seriously, think about it. This Santa Claus analogy is one that has been used to argue against God many times – maybe you have seen the movie “Religulous,” or at least a preview of it. Bill Maher pulls this one out –
“Santa Claus – I mean, thats just one man flying around the world dropping presents down a chimney, thats ridiculous. One man hearing a million people murmur to him at the same time, now that I get.”
So I asked my mom if God was just another lie. If “Jesus” was just some commercialized mascot and made up story to keep the kids in line. If we did all this church stuff to just make people obey something that did not exist, so we could all grow up to be “good people” and give money.
These are not easy questions for a mom to answer when they are coming from a 2nd grader who just had his heart broken. I didn’t trust anyone. They told me that the season for Advent was about waiting for Jesus. Waiting?
If Jesus already came, why am I waiting for Him? If Jesus is coming back “soon,” am I waiting for that? And how is one God going to listen to everyone, how is he going to be everywhere.
Should I be waiting in prayer? Should I be locked in my room waiting for the apocalypse? Should I stop believing all together? Or would I miss Him then, just like I missed Santa Claus. Because had I been less blind I would have realized that Santa was in front of me the whole time.
Just like today Jesus may be.
Look at Matthew 25:31-46. I’ll wait. Here I will help you –
Isn’t that interesting? Jesus tells the people that he encountered them everyday. He just wasn’t where they expected – and its clear; they ask “when did we see you there?” Jesus at the very end promises to be with us “even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
So we are waiting.
We are waiting to celebrate the birth of God into a world as both fully God and fully human. That he would love us so much, we would subject him to all our cruelty. That many of the people would miss the messiah, people who were waiting.
God is not Santa Claus, and to imagine so or make the analogy is crazy. God is God. Even the best analogy we can make for God does not do God justice. So we celebrate the closest we have come – that no one has seen God, except for God revealed in the Son, Jesus Christ.
And today you may see the face of God, too. Just not where you think.
It will be in the poor.
The repentant sinner.
The ones society casts out.
Your mother, father, family, friends, loved ones…this Sunday in the Eucharist.
And will you be waiting for those moments? Will you be “watchful and alert” as Jesus calls his disciples to be? In this liturgical season based wholly on “waiting,” will you wait for the moment to be as Jesus Christ to someone else.
If we are all one body, as St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, then we become as Jesus Christ, servants to one another. Are we waiting for the moment when we may be called to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world?
Many people take the reading from Mark this weekend to be an “end times” reading, but its a “now is the time” reading. It is a reading that calls us to not be lax in what we do as Christians, but deliberate and aware of every moment.
That in this season of preparation and celebration, commercialization and shopping malls, there are going to be people who hurt, who have nothing, who are on the fringes of the world. And that is Jesus.
In this season of family and friends, Santa Claus and advertisements, there will be times when we can act as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ in the world, healing the wounded, bringing tidings of joy, and feeding the hungry.
Those will be the moments when we encounter God. Not as something that was, but as something that “is.”
All we have to do is watch, wait, and be found ready.