Advent Devotion - Week Three

Should we Celebrate, or look for another?
Isaiah 35. Matthew 11.2-11

Riding up the elevator a few weeks ago mid-Sunday morning someone turned to me and said "It's working!" At first I thought theses words were addressed to the elevator. However, after a few more moments I realized they were talking about the church. They were off to an early start in celebrating our church's theme for these next few months, "celebrating the gift."

It seems like words of hope always collide with questions about hope. We all know the cynic is the failed romantic. You don't hate if you haven't first loved. You don't feel let down if you weren't first built up. That's where John the Baptist got to with his words while in prison. When he heard what Jesus was doing he asked, "Are you the One or should we look for another." Can we celebrate the gift, or should we wait?

Are you John? Are you in a physical, mental or emotional place where the kingdom is very hard to see? Are you in prison right now? Do you feel duped, let down or disillusioned by Jesus? Have you lost the joy? Are you privately furious with Jesus because you believed he changed everything, but everything seems too much like it always was? "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for someone else?"

Listen to Jesus' answer. "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." We need to look closely at each of these six statements. Jesus is announcing salvation in three dimensions.

First, he's saying the salvation he's bringing reaches every aspect of human experience. It overcomes disability by addressing blindness and deafness, it overcomes sickness by cleansing leprosy, it overcomes alienation by bringing hope and joy to the poor, and it overcomes death by the power of resurrection. Jesus is gently saying to John, this may not be lightning and fire and revolution and judgment, but it's a comprehensive wave of healing on every level of existence. And healing is the heart of the kingdom. Second, Jesus is gently saying to John, these are not just words, they are things I've already done.

Third, Jesus refers John to the promises and hopes of Israel. His words echo several places in Isaiah 35, "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy." Jesus is gently saying to John, "All the promises of the scriptures are finding their yes in me." And more than that, because added to Isaiah's hopes are two new dimensions, the curing of the incurable illness of leprosy and the overcoming of the final enemy of death. Jesus' salvation is no let-down, no betrayal, and no disillusioning anticlimax; it is comprehensive, already fully under way, and beyond hopes and expectations.

To celebrate the gift, look for how strangers are finding faith, look at how relationships are healed, witness to how people are living and dying in such a way, filling everyone with gratitude and the glory of God, new friendships are being made, the Holy Spirit is surprising us, and Jesus just keeps showing up.

Sure, we all have wilderness times of heart or head. We all have John the Baptist times in prisons of our own or others' making, that make us wonder if Jesus is for real. But those are the times we desperately need to look at the news in our lives. To listen below our despair to the hope yearning away, to the love that is simply trying to be out beyond our cynicism, and then we see the gift.

So the elevator statement "It's working." "Are you for real, or should we be expecting a different kind of kingdom?" I celebrate what I see and hear in you, in your faces, in your hands and hearts.

To celebrate the gift we sense our powerlessness being filled with the Holy Spirit to take risks of patience, courage, and hope for others. We celebrate the gift as we sing out and speak out and live out God's Good News. People are meeting Christ in the stranger, and entertaining angels unawares. Relationships are being healed and people are discovering ways to be with the poor and those of other faiths. Celebrate the Gift...this is joy.

It's Advent, the Gift is ever coming into our lives, can you see that beauty? Can you feel the peace and purpose of the season? If you can, then others will see, and rediscover the joy. Our hearts will feel lighter than before and our breath filled with hope. We will turn to one another and whisper, quietly but confidently, "It's working." Let's celebrate the gift.

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