JOY. Advent 3. “Who are you?” A case of mistaken identity brings joy or at least a smile to our face. As a young adult I did what young adults did back then and ran away to hitchhike around Europe to drown my sorrows of a failed love and to find myself. That was the idea, anyway. My sister had done a year abroad in France and my college roommate was finishing a master’s at Edinburgh, Scotland. It was my turn! I wrapped my clothes in my sleeping bag, slung it across my shoulders and climbed on a plane to see the world. As events unfolded, the adventure of traveling with friend became hitchhiking and staying in youth hostels. There I met fellow travelers from around the world and we would try to guess each other’s nationality. Who are you? Where are you from? Being a rather nondescript sort of person the first guess was always European, then British, and seldom American for they were loud, raucous partiers. I always felt complemented when I was perceived to be more international than I was and it brought a smile to my face. As we scurry for presents in the Advent season, we rack our brains pondering who that other special person is and what the person would like.
John the Baptist at the beginning of the gospel of John, after giving a cosmic definition of Jesus as the Word, God of creation, coming to reveal himself to his creation and giving power to those who wanted to believe in him to change of identity from “Joe Doe” to “child of God,” is himself grilled by the authorities, “Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? (John 1:22)’” John was mistaken for the promised Messiah or for the prophet Elijah. He was not. He was a messenger sent to introduce the Christ and he continues to organize his message around the question, “Who is Jesus?” with the seven “I am” statements Christ made. He said,
- “I am the bread of life, the light of the world,
- the door,
- the good shepherd,
- the resurrection and the life,
- the way, the truth and the life,
- and finally the true vine.”
All were answers to the question, “Who are you?”
In Advent we are reminded that as we look in the mirror at ourselves or ponder the friend we are shopping for or write cards to the one who is distant from us, that all of us are those faulty people that we experience and who are seen by the world but… But also we have a deeper identity unseen as child of God. The Word became flesh as a baby that few recognized as God at that time, grew, was crucified but promised to return in full disclosure. We are not gods but we too are becoming and have that inner identity that is unfolding. God does not lie and he sees our true selves. That reminded is a source for joy, for now. He knows, he sees and he cares! May we look past the surface, past the mistakes, past the inadequacies and see the other with joy this Advent. Blessings.