A man went to his rabbi and complained. "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?" "Take your goat inside to live with you," said the rabbi. The man was incredulous, but the rabbi was firm. "Do what I told you, and come back in a week."
A week later the man returned. " We can't stand it," he cried. "The goat is filthy and smells to high heaven." "Go home," said the rabbi, "let the goat out, and come back in a week." A week later the man was back, all smiles. "Life is beautiful!" he said. "No goat! Just the nine of us." Sometimes our happiness is all a matter of perspective isn’t it. Finding our happiness is tricky business, at least we make it so.
John the Baptist gives us a road to happiness in today’s gospel (LK 3:10-18). In essence he says, “Whoever you are, and whatever it is that you do, do it with all your heart, and generously give it as a gift to God's big family.
Remember the gospel specifically mentions three different groups of people --a devout crowd, sinful tax collectors, and truly despised soldiers—they ask John, “What should we do?” John’s response is that none need change where life has placed them. He tells them to stay where we are, but become who God expects them to be. The message is the same for us. Stay where you are and become who God expects you to be. This is how.
Do you remember what John told each group in the Gospel? John’s exhorts the devout crowd to share clothing and food; he challenges tax collectors to practice justice, with professional and personal integrity; calls soldiers to be honest and respectful. What would John say to us?
He would say, become who God expects us to be. Be disciples whose generous, practical charity, and justice, translates into the way we live our lives. That’s what Jesus did, he came and shared his gifts of healing, compassion, and forgiveness, which is charity and justice. And he tells us to do the same.
John's, and Jesus’s, instruction is not just a formula for being "nice." It's a map for the only road that can ever lead to happiness! Every one of us can be happy, whether we're rich, or poor, young, old, sick or healthy, if we take our gifts, whatever they are, and use them to help folks to thrive. Your church provides many ways to do that, many ways to love, care, and share. Like John the Baptist and Jesus encourage you, I encourage you to get involved in your church that way, loving, caring, sharing.
This is the season of gift giving. Search for the gift that's already inside you, some type of treasure you have to share, whatever that is. Being generous of ourselves is certainly not just about giving away our old goat. Being generous of ourselves is about becoming who God created us to be.
Jesus reminds us regularly, generously give of yourself, and don't hold back, and the happiness you seek will be yours - and it will last! Why? Because sharing in that way, is loving as God loves. As we love, care and share, like God does, others will thrive, and as they thrive, we will thrive too. That's the way God made us - for big love; God made us for big love that does not end! So I encourage you, and me, as we prepare for Christmas, become who God created us to be, become who God expects us to be.