Of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is. (Matthew 11:11)
Something extra-ordinary is about to happen, indeed it is already happening. That is the message in today’s readings. God is coming to save you, says the prophet Isaiah. The Judge is already waiting at the gates, says the apostle James in the second reading. And in this Gospel: John the Baptist is great, Jesus says, the greatest of all the prophets: yet he is just the beginning of the kingdom of God.
This a note of anticipation, of excitement, and just a little foreboding too. This is a word of eager expectation, a realisation that something extra-ordinary - literally extra-ordinary - is amongst us.
And at this time of year we know the excitement of the children, their eagerness for Christmas, the countdown to the celebration marked in calendar and candle. We know the buzz of frivolity and generosity which sparks the good will in this season of goodwill.
But often we fail to capture the real excitement, not just for presents and parties, for the the Presence of Christ in our midst. This is what the Scripture speaks of. An anticipation for the coming of he who is judge and saviour and Lord.
Of course, when St James wrote perhaps many actually thought that the coming of Christ at the end of time was very close, while now we understand Christ’s presence amongst us especially in the Church, in the sacraments, and in his people.
But that should not dull our anticipation. No, it should heighten it! He will come at the end of time: but he already amongst us now! He is here. He is with us. In the Sacrament, in our Worship, in all those who need his love - the blind, the lame, the deaf, the poor. And in them his love, and his grace are his presents and his Presence amongst us!
What wonderful gifts!