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Are you the One?

– Third week of Advent –

So John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask … [Luke 7:18-19]

The person of John the Baptist, which figures so prominently in our Advent Sunday Gospel readings, appears again in today’s reflective passage and Luke has Jesus deal with him summarily. John’s disciples have been reporting to him as he languishes in Herod’s prison, on all that Jesus is doing – healing a servant of a Centurion and raising a dead son of the widow of Nain – and John is trying to reconcile his understanding of the Messiah.  John foresaw a threatening Messianic visitation of judgement and wrath (3:7-9, 15-18) but what Jesus announces and enacts is ‘a day of the Lord’s acceptance! (4:19). It is understandable that John should have doubts as to whether Jesus really does correspond to the figure he himself had envisaged and proclaimed.  Jesus’ ministry of healing fulfils the divine visitation pledged in the ancient promises and those on the margins are the people who particularly benefit – perhaps they have nothing to lose and no vested interests to get in the way of acceptance of God’s hospitality?

Jesus does not give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to the two, busy as he is with healing and liberating, but rather invites them to use their own eyes and ears to see and hear what is right in front of them. Then he instructs them to go and tell John and points out to them, quoting the Prophet Isaiah (61) ‘the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news brought to them. (v 22).  Jesus is fulfilling the prophetic promises, ushering in a new age, and the messengers can draw their own conclusions and take them back to John, who belongs to the previous age, for all his greatness.  Jesus is the ‘new wine’ of the kingdom.

In this Advent time of waiting in hope and joy, are we looking for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to our questions about the presence of God, failing to see the work of God in our very midst – the laughter of children, the gift of family, the security of paid work, blessed rain, the needs of the poor, the cries of the natural world?  The Messiah is in our midst, if only we have the eyes to see and ears to hear. 

God of the incarnation, help us to bring to birth the Christ-child amongst our friends, families and communities.

By Carole Danby

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