Sometimes, when you set a challenge for yourself like my Advent writing challenge, you have days, well, when you just don’t have anything to say…but then you have to write something anyway.
Today is the third day of Advent and in my community, this is the day we light the candle of Joy. I will freely admit that I am feeling no joy right now. I am living with the emotional after effects of serious heart surgery. Add to that a bought of seasonal Grinch-ness and the need to finish a paper from a class that I finished before the surgery, and well, I would say that today I am running on empty. So please forgive me if I identify a little-too-much with the cranky Jesus in our passage today:
When John heard in prison what the Messiah* was doing, he sent word by his* disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘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. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone* dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet?* Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”
Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
John’s questions make me think a little about Thomas later on in our story — I mean, after all, wasn’t John a relative? Both young men were born in sacred circumstances; both births foretold by the Angel Gabriel; both having a mission laid out before them by God? I mean, weren’t they on the same track? Why then would John have to send messengers to see what was happening?
Or, did he not believe…even, did he not know? I have often wondered…how much did Jesus know about what lay ahead of him and, if he did not always embody the knowledge of God’s plan in a conscious way, when did the path become clear to him? Or was he like the rest of us, with some good days and some bad, just trying to find that next right step as he stumbled toward a still small voice, beckoning him onward? Could he really see the plan or was he as in the dark as the rest of us?
What if all we ever have is the knowledge that a messenger has been sent ahead to prepare the way for us? That promise doesn’t even come with a map, frankly — we might not go the right way.
As I said, today I am identifying with cranky Jesus (and don’t be shocked because I called him that, since if you have read the Gospel accounts you know that sometimes Jesus is cranky; sometimes even angry), but even now I know that I have to trust that the messenger has been sent to prepare the way.
Wherever that is. Whatever it is.