3rd Sunday in Advent (A); 12-11-16
Is 35:1-6, 10 Ps 146 Jas 5:7-10 Mt 11:2-11
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom & SJB
In the middle of Advent we pause for a moment of rejoicing. It’s not rejoicing that comes from taking a rest amid the Advent journey, but it is joy that comes from having perspective.
Like John the Baptist, we need assurances that the journey is worth the effort. John is in jail and needs hope and some sort of vision that assures him that his life has not been in vain. While in jail, he begins to hear the deeds of Jesus and he wonders “Is He the One?” So, he sends his disciples to ask Jesus that very question. That is the whole understanding of Advent: is this Child the One?
If we answer “yes,” our hearts will rejoice and we will be radically changed which is the theme from Isaiah. His poetry is strikingly beautiful: what a remarkable sight when the desert blooms “with abundant flowers.”
Not only will nature be rejuvenated, but humans too will be restored. With the coming of Emmanuel and when the Kingdom of God becomes a reality, we will get our sight back; we will be able to hear. We don’t have to do that much; that’s what the Spirit is for. By trusting in the promise of Christmas, we will extend and deepen our belief. God will carry us where we need to go.
John let God carry him, and he did everything asked of him. He poured his whole life into making the crooked way straight and preparing the way for the Messiah. John was a man of integrity, now in prison paying the price for that integrity. But, as good as John is—“Amen, I say to you, among those born of woman there has been none greater than John the Baptist—yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Mt 11:11). We are greater than John the Baptist if we are actively cooperating with the vision and salvation of Jesus. We are greater than John the Baptist if we do what is asked of us which is to prepare His way in the world, to bring His Kingdom into the world, and make sure His way is straight and narrow and true. All this is to say that we believe and act on what Jesus taught as we share communion with him.
When we do, when we act on our faith, the stumbling blocks fall by the wayside. Advent is about finding any stumbling blocks that prevent us from seeing Who this Child really is why God would become human. Advent is also about finding the ways we are stumbling blocks for other people to believe in Jesus because we don’t always act like we believe in Jesus. When people look at us, do they see Jesus incarnated?
Do they see us being merciful as Jesus is?
Advent is a time when Jesus is reaching his hand out to us, saying, “You have a lot to learn; do you want to walk this year in grace? I want your hand, your life. I want your heart and soul. I want you.” How are we going to respond?
The messengers go back to John, but the story does not tell us how John responded. Maybe John started praising God in prison because he believed that Jesus could give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf. Perhaps that was the moment it all came together and there were no stumbling blocks for John. He knows that Jesus is the Messiah and he rejoices. He probably stood in his cell and sang joyfully.
What Sunday is this? Gaudete Sunday—when there is no stumbling blocks, not only joy, exhilaration, and jubilation that is given to those who believe that this person is the Messiah, that this is God among us. We can tell the depth of our faith by how joyful we are, which is the inexpressible sign that we are living in the presence of God. Joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit and literally confirms that we are believers in Jesus. That no matter what we face, the Kingdom is here and how. We know what the Kingdom of God is like because we see it perfectly reflected in Jesus. We want to abide in His life the rest of our lives because this is the only life worth living.