Today the appearance of that raspy-voiced intruder, John the Baptizer, changes to the urgent tone of a question that takes us from a cooing Baby in a manger bed to a walking, talking grownup Jesus Who has John the Baptizer sending his friends to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
John doesn’t go in person,because he is in prison where he is about to be beheaded.
All the more reason for his question that echoes through time to this Christmas that goes beyond asking,
“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
The news of the day – an earthquake in California, a sudden death of a child or youth too young to die, personal crises which seem to have no hopeful endings, and apprehension here and overseas that play to the sung lines in the Messiah– “why do the nations rage and the peoples imagine a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1) -
may be strong reasons to dismiss Jesus as – in Hebrew longing being the “Messiah,” or the title all can understand, “God-with-us,” and to respond to John the Baptizer’s question, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” with the shout:
“No, YOU are not the One! The world is still filled with iolence and cruelty and undeserved suffering and Christmas makes me feel worse rather than better, with no reason for joy.”
And the reading from Isaiah that prompts today’s Advent candle to be colored rose, rather than blue, (Isaiah 35: 8-10) is obscured by harsh news that casts a dark shadow over the joyful hue meant to compliment the prophet’s image of a pilgrimage on a highway that is free of crashes or attacks by people or animals, and the glorious far horizon doesn’t appear to be a destination free of sorrow and sighing and full of joy and gladness.
In the wisdom of the first Christians, that was all the more reason to let the prophet’s rosy words stand alongside John’s hard question; “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
which Joe E. Pennell Jr. says, “Like all good questions, it shoves the reader into deeper regions of thought.”
Let’s do that now as we adapt a modern device – a GPS– whether handheld or opened on a dashboard screen in a vehicle, and use it to find our way to an answer to John the Baptist’s question, updated to:
“How do I get to a Christmas that is filled with joy when I or someone one I know is lost in depression
, fear, worry, sadness, grief, anger?”
“How, when I arrive at Christmas, will I meet the Christ of Christmas?”
First, we listen to Jesus’ response to John’s entry-like question: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
Second, we enter those lines into God’s GPS; then press “Start” and follow the route that takes us on a trip through the adult years of Jesus, a backward trip to Christmas.
Notice the sights along the way of Jesus’ ministry in which: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.”
See the signs as samplings of what life will be like when creation is restored to God’s intended goodness.
Note those sightings as Jesus’ answer to John’s question, then make His words the captions for the tourist attractions on this backward route to Christmas, and be amazed that those samplings are still showing up.
God is among is, with us, in Jesus Who is waiting to be God’s Gift to us which we open NOW – in present day sighting on the backward route to Christmas.
The sight a grandmother saw in a fast food spot as four bouncy, giggling kindergarteners jammed into a booth at lunchtime. When one of the parents took a photo, they throw their arms around each other and covered their faces with a smile. As the grandmother watched, she thought, “They are acting like Jesus wants His followers to behave.” -
a sighting on the backward route to Christmas.
At a performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” one singer stood out from everyone else because she was singing without a book; it became obvious she is blind. When the score came to Isaiah’s words picked up in Jesus’ message sent back to John: Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.my attention was fixed on that singer without a book, and a chill ran up and down my spine as I thought,
“She though blind is not sightless. She is seeing with her soul that is open to catching a glimpse of God- with-us in Jesus; she is living the promise of the Day when all flesh shall see Him together. It is as though she is singing herself into that joy.-
a sight on the backward route to Christmas.
When we make Jesus’ answer to John entries into God’s GPS, where do we see God at work in very ordinary ways as people comfort the grieving, heal broken relationships, warm a cold heart with compassion; where might we catch a glimpse of God Who is already with us in Jesus? –
a sighting on the backward route to Christmas,
that will bring us to a manger where we, like the shepherds, are brought to our knees as John’s question is answered for us in a carol’s lines:
He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of all
And His shelter was a stable, And His cradle was a stall;…
He was little, weak, and helpless, tears and smiles like us he knew,
And he cares when we are sad, and he shares when we are glad
With the poor, and mean, and lowly, Lived on earth our Savior holy.
And our eyes at last shall see Him, Through His own redeeming love.
Where God’s GPS brings us though today’s backward route to Christmas. Amen.