Take the Weight Off

A few days before Christmas, I was invited by one of the sisters to accompany her to one of the villages about a half-hour away form the main pueblo where I’m staying in San Isidro here in Ecuador. They were having their Christmas celebration, and since the priest can’t come, we would lead a prayer service like the Mass with Scripture readings and music and prayers. We set out at 8:30 at night, and we finally arrived a half an hour later at a barn-like structure that is their chapel. My reflection was very, very simple, because I’m a simple guy, and I like to take the weight off of other people. Afterwards, the people seemed to really like me. I seem to get that in a lot of the villages that I go to.

Now, what I did was very different. What’s been happening is that there has been a novena everywhere in Ecuador. For nine straight days before Christmas, people get together for an arrangement of Scripture readings and music and reflections about the Christmas story. There are books typically published by the dioceses that are guides, and they often have a lot of long prayers every day for the novena, as well as long reflections written out that are not so relevant. It’s way over the peoples’ heads, and that’s what they image God to be. Many times, folks try to give reflections to the people, and they are filled with do’s and don’ts. There are so many things to do, it seems, to prepare for Christmas. That’s why, little by little, less and less people are attending.

It’s the same in the States. It always seems like there is so much to do to prepare for Christmas. The decorations, the buying of gifts for family and friends, the making and sending of cards or facebook posts. Pictures, notes, visits. Then, if you’re involved in the church, there are caroling events and advent retreats and fundraisers and all types of things. It all takes up so much time and is so complicated. It’s no wonder everyone is exhausted and ready for it to end by the time it’s over. That’s why less and less people are getting into Christmas.

But see, God is different from that. He is very simple. He likes to take the weight off of us.

That’s what Jesus does with the Ten Commandments. Paul in his letters says no one can fulfill the Ten Commandments. If you fail in one, you’ve failed in all of it. Fulfilling the Ten Commandments was impossible – they were the giant weight of do’s and don’ts that sat on top of the Israelites. And then Jesus comes and takes the whole Ten Commandments, and anything else that might have been added later, and he reduces it all down to one, simple commandment: love one another as I’ve loved you. That’s it.

God is simple. He likes to take the weight off of us.

John the Baptist is always right in front of Jesus. The angel comes to announce his coming just before Jesus’. He is born just before Jesus’. Zecaraciah sings his canticle song before Mary sings hers. And John the Baptist is going to go out into his mission before Jesus, and he is going to be killed before Jesus. Why? Because he is the one who prepares the way.

Now, if you or I go to work in the morning, is there someone who goes to prepare the way in front of us? No. If we go to visit another country, is there someone that is sent ahead of you to prepare the way? No. Only dignitaries of state have someone who foes ahead and prepares the way. Jesus is a king, so he has someone to go ahead of him and show everyone how to prepare the way for him to come. That means that what John the Baptist says is very, very important. John the Baptist has the key, he has the secret about how to prepare for Christmas, and you know what? It is very simple. This is what he says:

He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” (Lk 3:11).

If you have more than you need, share with others who have less than they need.

That’s it. Simple.

Imagine, you don’t have to buy Christmas presents, send greetings, put up decorations, plan events. You don’t have to go to long boring services or be preached to about a long list of things to do. You don’t have to say certain prayers, or go on a retreat, or religious service, or anything like that to prepare to receive Jesus.

There is only one thing.

Give of your surplus to those in need.

Because God is simple.

He likes to take the weight off of us.

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