I was sat in an armchair in this unpretentious café. In today’s descriptions, not a very ‘Instagram-worthy’ place. But for me a real place for a real cuppa. The armchair has seen better days. In its past it was one of the more sought-after sofa, primed in design and comfort. Then there were the Christmas decorations, again its looks suggesting it had been in and out of the cupboard for a great number of years. It was the setting to reflect on the past.

The Gospel of this past Sunday was again on John the Baptist. A friend shared before mass that in the Orthodox Church John the Baptist is known as John the Forerunner. The forerunner for Christ, the one who pointed Christ to others. I like this very much, for me somewhat a more accurate description than the Baptist. It is easier for our humbles selves to accept that we too through our life lived can be forerunners of Christ to others.

“The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken”. (Last Sunday’s First Reading)

Christmas can be a lonely time for some people. Outward rejoicing but inward anxieties. Maybe this year more so because of the consequences of the pandemic. Some of us have no more jobs. Christmas can also be a time of regret for some. Outward rejoicing but inward hurt; people hurt by events in their past, trapped because they have not been healed. As we wrap our gifts for Christmas, can we think of hearts that are broken that we can help bind up? After all we are forerunners of Christ, the gift we should be giving.

A picture of a shepherd rescuing a sheep entangled in a thorny bush comes to mind. Sometimes we need to accompany someone to go back into their past. It is too painful for them to go back alone. A painful past cannot be simply locked away. An unhealed past creates an unsure future because we are still entangled in a mix of negative emotions. This Advent let us venture into the wilderness of the past as a forerunner and help someone to meet Christ and begin the process of healing.

Maybe this “someone” can be our self too. If so let us not hesitate to grab the hands of the shepherds around us, people who we trust and have a stronger faith life. They are our forerunners. Let us gift our self the important gift of healing. Let us banish the past by responding to the voice that cries out in our wilderness and emerge from it.

“He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.” (Last Sunday’s Gospel)

On that first Christmas night, it was the shepherds who were first to come to pay homage. Then they went out to tell their world of family and friends. They were the first forerunners; we are not the light, only witnesses to speak for the light. This morning my friends in Singapore shared the rush online to book limited seats for Christmas mass. This has a parallel to the past, that first Christmas, summoned as shepherds to come to pay homage, summoned online.

There is a Christmas purpose. Summoned to be forerunners as shepherds to rescue our family and friends trapped in the wilderness of their past. Unwrap the gift of healing with love.

For the 3rd Sunday of Advent