Advent 2011: 3.5 — In a Great Chasm

Throughout this Advent season, my goal is to take each of the four Lectionary readings for each week and write a meditation about each one. Largely my motivation for this is simply that I love the season of Advent, yet there’s also a little bit of hoping that by blogging through this season, I can use it as a means to grieve the recent passing of my Dad.

Week 3: A reading from the Gospel of John.

There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light.

When Jews from Jerusalem sent a group of priests and officials to ask John who he was, he was completely honest. He didn’t evade the question. He told the plain truth: “I am not the Messiah.”

They pressed him, “Who, then? Elijah?” “I am not.” “The Prophet?” “No.”

Exasperated, they said, “Who, then? We need an answer for those who sent us. Tell us something-anything!-about yourself.”

“I’m thunder in the desert: ‘Make the road straight for God!’ I’m doing what the prophet Isaiah preached.”

Those sent to question him were from the Pharisee party. Now they had a question of their own: “If you’re neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet, why do you baptize?”

John answered, “I only baptize using water. A person you don’t recognize has taken his stand in your midst. He comes after me, but he is not in second place to me. I’m not even worthy to hold his coat for him.”

These conversations took place in Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing at the time.

— John 1:6-8, 19-28 (MSG)

Today’s reading brings us back to our Wild Man in the Wilderness. We encounter John the Baptist again. Yet, instead of Mark’s presentation of him as a Wild Man, we get a more subdued–almost politicianesque–character.

The religious leaders of the time come to John the Baptist with the intent of determining who he is. People from all over are flocking to him. The religious leaders are nervous. Who is this guy? Or probably more likely, “How much of a threat is this guy?”

What I find interesting here is that these religious leaders are the ones who know the prophecies. A few quick questions beginning with, “Were you born in Bethlehem?” (Micah 5:2) should (at least in theory) clear it all up for them. Yet, they they take a more direct approach: “Are you the Messiah?” While these leaders would have known the prophecies, they would also have, no doubt, known what had happened some 28 years prior.

We have a mad man ruling over Isreal. Herod. His power, he thinks, is contracting. He’s hearing rumors from three wise men that a new king has been born in Israel. So, he commits one of the most atrocious acts in history.

“Are you the Messiah?” they ask.

“No,” John says, “but let me tell you a little bit about him.”

John the Baptist bringing the message of that which is to be, but is not yet.

As we close this week of Guadete, we find ourselves in not all that different a place as John the Baptist. We again find that we are in that same great chasm in which people have found themselves for centuries–firmly between the promise and the fulfillment.

We know that Messiah has been promised, yet we await His coming.

We know the tragedy has occurred, yet we await the rescue.

We know that hell has broken loose, yet we await heaven’s entrance.

We know that a new King has been born, yet await the Kingdom.

And, in this great chasm, we rejoice.

We rejoice in the hope for that which is to come. We rejoice in the peace that will be.

But, for now, we wait.

Three Lit Candles

Two candles remain to be lit. On Sunday, we will light the candle of love. And, with its lighting, we will begin the mad rush to that most blessed of days. This time next week, we will quite nearly be to Bethlehem. We will be trying to find a place for two weary travelers to rest.

It would seem that the more we add to our calendars, to do lists and lives we become more like the innkeepers and less like the travelers.

And so, I would caution us against the mad rush. Let us stop and with all of creation take that deep breath. Let us take a breath of hope. Let us take a breath of peace. Let us take a breath of joy. Let us take a breath of love.

Then, as we light our final candle, and we begin the celebration of the birth of a Servant-King, let us again rejoice because our hope has been fulfilled. Let us rejoice because our peace has come. Let us rejoice because love has found hands and feet.

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