Reflection for Sunday – December 11, 2016

Readings: Isaiah 35: 1-6a, 10; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11
Preacher: Patrick Fox

Today Jesus raises a question, “what did you come out to see?’’ He is asking those listening to consider why they came to see John the Baptist.

It causes me to wonder what I or any of us might say if we heard the voice of Jesus asking us today in our city, or town, or village, “What did you come out to see?”

Did we come out to see division, distrust, disharmony all vested in the divides around religion, ethnicity, race, gender or any of the other ways that we can divide and define one from another.

Being a prophet today—that is bringing the word of God into the places we walk, play and pray—means seeing clearly what we are looking for in those places where we live.

We are called to see the divine in all the people around us, because we, like John the Baptist, are the greatest. Some scholars offer that John is the greatest human creation since Adam and Eve, and yet we know that the least are greater than John or Adam or Eve or any of us.

We can see in conversations we have opportunities for the blind to see, so long as our words and our eyes, as well as theirs, are open.

We are privileged to listen and to be listened to when we encounter others. Opening ourselves to hardened hearts—and opening our hardened hearts as well—are tasks that help us answer the question of what we have come out to see.

We can encourage others to add their voices to the conversation without any fear of reprisal from us. We can mourn with those who mourn and join in the laughter that lifts souls and spirits. We have historically referred
to this Sunday as Gaudate—rejoice. We can rejoice in answer to Jesus’ question, “What did you come out to see?’’ Not in some long ago historical moment but in the real world we walk in each day. We can cultivate patience to be in the moment. We can cultivate firm not hardened hearts.

We proclaim the joy of sharing a greeting with stranger and friend. We can come to dialogue with the voices that agree as well as those who disagree, without becoming disagreeable. We can see each opportunity to listen as graced space. We can open our eyes to the stress and suffering, joy and hope, of all we encounter.

Thus we have the opportunity to answer as Jesus did, when John’s disciples came to him, not with words but by our actions.

This Advent we can ask ourselves how we have helped the blind to see, the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the lepers to be cleansed, the dead to rise and the poor to have the good news proclaimed.

Our Gaudate is found not in words but in our actions. The real miracles of today are not grand predictions for good or bad, or spectacular moments. Rather they are in ears that listen, hearts that strive to be open, minds seeking new insights, simple acts of saying hello, smiling, offering encouragement and just being present in each moment of each day we are privileged to live.

Others may ask, ”Are you the one or should we look for another?” We might respond this advent that we are present, incomplete, aware, and willing to be with each other. We come bearing the gift of peace, practiced in our open hearts and open ears. We do rejoice as we come to each moment of each day and look forward to tomorrow and new life—not just as a memory of historical events but as a reality we are helping to build in our present moments. We see and serve each other not in some perfect memory but in the messy space that is God’s gift to us and the place where we meet the question, “What did you come out to see?”

It seems entirely possible that we are up to responding that we did not come to the battle of words but the gift of actions that hold each and every life as the greatest creation, the creation of a God of all, for all, and in all. Today let us embrace the stewardship of our graced beings and strive to be all we can be. Let our answer be that we are working at being more than a prophet in our graced moment in history.

Patrick Fox
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