Inn Expectations versus Barn Reality

First Reading: Zephaniah 3:14-18A

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!
Sing joyfully, O Israel!
Be glad and exult with all your heart,
O daughter Jerusalem!
The LORD has removed the judgment against you
he has turned away your enemies;
the King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst,
you have no further misfortune to fear.
On that day, it shall be said to Jerusalem:
Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged!
The LORD, your God, is in your midst,
a mighty savior;
he will rejoice over you with gladness,
and renew you in his love,
he will sing joyfully because of you,
as one sings at festivals.

Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
God indeed is my savior;
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement;
let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!
R. Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel.

Second Reading: Philippians 4:4-7

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice in the Lord always.
I shall say it again: rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
The Lord is near.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Gospel: Luke 3:10-18

The crowds asked John the Baptist,
“What should we do?”
He said to them in reply,
“Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.
And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him,
“Teacher, what should we do?”
He answered them,
“Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”
Soldiers also asked him,
“And what is it that we should do?”
He told them,
“Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone,
and be satisfied with your wages.”

Now the people were filled with expectation,
and all were asking in their hearts
whether John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, saying,
“I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming.
I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor
and to gather the wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Exhorting them in many other ways,
he preached good news to the people.


dec 13

Nothing brings out the anticipation, or the planner in me, like Mickey Mouse.

Earlier this year, my brother and our families were gifted a trip to Disney World with my parents. For months, we researched places to stay, clothes to wear, characters to meet, places to dine and rides to experience. I’m pretty sure Pinterest almost shut down a few nights because I pinned so many things. And, to up the anticipation meter, we didn’t spill the beans to any of the grandchildren until the morning of the airplane flight. The anticipation in those two hours nearly broke them. They were filled with joy. You should’ve heard the chatter in the van ride to the airport. And, when we arrived in Florida, the joy was palpable. We couldn’t experience Disney fast enough for them.

As we enter this third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, or “Rejoice Sunday,” I’m betting your anticipation of the Christmas season is at its tipping point. You’re getting close to selecting the gifts for the people you love, wrapping presents, making plans for the feast and decking the halls. And, if you’re like me, your Pinterest boards are full of so much Christmas beauty.

Anticipation can be a beautiful, yet maddening thing. Just ask my kids who are spying the presents, wrapped beneath the tree. To fully experience the joy of Christmas, though, we must fill our weeks of anticipation with the spiritual fruits of our faith. Serve others. Pray for others. Give to others. It all comes down to these four questions:

Are we preparing the internal manger?

Have we paved our spiritual road to Bethlehem?

Have we tempered our inn expectations to the barn reality?

Are we wrapping the people we love in swaddling clothes stitched with prayer?

You and I? We get comfortable with what we have and what we do. We act like the tax collectors and the soldiers, asking more of others than we ask of ourselves and throwing out judgment with nary a thought as to how it affects others. And every year, Christmas comes around and reminds us that all we have, all that we are and all that we do comes from one source—a tiny baby in a manger, who grew into a man, who saved us.

So, prepare the feast, give joyfully and decorate your home with beauty. But don’t forget to do the same for your heart. After all, that’s what He desires most.

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Today, choose one way to show God you’re prayerfully anticipating his arrival. Maybe it’s making an ornament for your Jesse tree, taking time to bake a treat for a friend or neighbor or spending five minutes in morning prayer. Or, maybe you just don’t yell at your kids today. You laugh together, instead.

photo by Edenn Yorks

Kathryn Whitaker is married to Scott and together they have 6 awesome kids. She is a former public relations consultant turned freelance graphic designer who hails from the Lone Star state. You can find out more about her here.

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