Good Friday

Good Friday

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Advent Reflections, part 3

Last Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, my pastor preached on Matthew 11 focusing in on verses 1-4. In this story, John the Baptist is in prison. We can suppose he has heard about the teaching and miracles of Jesus from his followers. These followers of John are in the crowd that day and they ask Jesus a question on behalf of John: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

My pastor reminded me that morning that just a few chapters earlier, John had been preaching in the desert “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” He had also told his followers not to get too enthralled with his message because there was one coming after him whose sandal straps he was unworthy to untie. And of course, John baptized Jesus.

So why this question? Didn’t John know?

My pastor suggested that John’s circumstances made him doubt even what he had seen with his own eyes.

That not only made sense to me it also made John seem utterly human, a lot more like many of us than some spiritual giant. And isn’t that the case with many of the so-called giants in Scripture? Particularly the prophetic giants?

Just consider the first Elijah who, after courageously standing up to the prophets of Baal and watching the power of God soundly defeat them, descends into utter despair. Jezebel was not happy about the slaughter of her prophets and was out for blood. Elijah runs to the desert outside Beersheba, sits down under a broom tree, and tells God he is done, asking God to take his life.

Answering God’s call to speak God’s word and plead his cause to the people – the essence of prophecy – is hard work. It is generally thankless work. And discouragement lurks around the edges of this task waiting for the chance to pounce.

It’s easy to forget the mighty works and faithfulness of God in the past when you are sitting in a prison of discouragement. Hope can look more like a fairy tale.

Advent is a season that reminds us of God’s work in the world in the past, his continuing work today, and his promised faithfulness for the future.

God is King: Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!  (Contemporary Testimony, art. 2)



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