3rd Sunday of Advent—A—December 15, 2013
Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.
Have you ever wondered it would be like to be in jail. Stripped of your freedom, in a confined space, with nothing to consume your time…nothing but thinking. Too much time thinking can send you down some interesting paths, ultimately leading to questioning, wondering if any choice you made was the right one, if your work was of any consequence, if you will end up on the right side of history.
From the depths and darkness of his cell, John the Baptist does just this…he starts to doubt whether Jesus is the messiah he has been expecting, that he preached about, that he spent his life preparing the way for. Enough time has passed since he baptized Jesus, but things do not seem to have changed that much; his expectations have not been met.
Like John, we put a lot of expectations on Jesus too: some expect God to heal every illness or injury we or a loved one comes down with or not even let them happen in the first place (at least to good Christians), some preachers expect God to trade wealth for worship, other expect God to answer every prayer the way we want, when we want it. And also like John, when our expectations are not met, when we are in the deep valley and feel abandoned, we start to doubt.
But if we are honest, it is not just in the bad times that we doubt God’s role in our lives and whether God fits into our expectations. In the best of times, it is when we are at the top that we start telling ourselves that we did it all ourselves and our expectations, our understanding, our relationship with God changes.
Like John the Baptist, we get impatient and want to at least know the outcome, want to know if our expectations are right, if not have the end come faster, have our expectations realized, on our time schedule. We think knowledge and strength is power, but we forget that when it comes to God, wonder and weakness carries the power. The signs of the kingdom are not the start of a war or the overthrowing of a regime, but the world being turned upside down, not with violence, but with healing and wholeness.
Jesus does not conform to our expectations, but almost seems to delight in blowing them out of the water, both those expectations we come up at the best of times and of the worst of times. Even the best thing we can come up with, Jesus is doing something all the more! Jesus is showing up in the last places we expect. If it were anybody else, that would be a bad thing, but with Jesus we know that life comes from death, victory comes from defeat, and power comes from weakness.
Jesus does not send a straight answer back to John. Instead of “yes it is me” or “you must wait,” he sends a somewhat cryptic message that in essence answers John’s question “both.” Jesus is acting in John’s time, but also has much more to happen in the future, for which John and the others must wait. We have seen more of Jesus power and work than John did before his death, but there is still more to wait for as well. We have the stories of the past, the foretaste in the present, and the expectations of the future.
So again this Advent, we wait, patient (at times and like John less so at others), but the only reason we can wait with any sense of hope is because of the glimpses of God’s kingdom that surround us every day. We remember the past, as we find God at work all around us everyday, and we look to the future full of expectations of a world that is marked by love (not hate), peace (not war), harmony (not school shootings), health (not illness or injury), equality (not divisions), and justice (not discrimination).
Come Lord Jesus, our Messiah, Come!