Reflection on the Gospel of Matthew 11:2-11, Third Sunday of Advent December 11, 2022

Gospel of Matthew 11:2-11

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 offense 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.”

Third Sunday of Advent Today we relight the first two candles of the Advent wreath. The candle of HOPE and the candle of PEACE. Now we light the third candle of Advent. This is the candle of JOY. As the coming of Jesus, our Savior, draws nearer, our joy builds with our anticipation of his birth. From the Book of Isaiah we read the words of our Lord:

“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.”—Isaiah 65:18 From the New Testament, the words of Paul to the people of the church at Galatia: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”—Galatians 5:22-25

Let us Pray: Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever. Amen

Many were wondering about signs. Do you wonder about the signs that Jesus walks among us. The people who were expecting the Messiah, and John, in prison, were going through some doubts, so he sent others to find out if Jesus was the true Messiah. Jesus did send back to John that he had made the blind see and healed the sick, the lame walk and lepers healed.  With this back from Jesus, John would know when he heard of the healings of Jesus that he was the One. Jesus was never one for magic signs.  The signs of his coming among us would show up as signs for our good and for the good of the ones who needed him. These signs can be made through each of us as we work together to help those who need Him. The same for us today and how do we realize that Jesus was and still is the one? We are a people of expectations. When we go to bed at night, we expect the sun to rise in the morning. We expect others to stop at the stop sign. We expect it will take a certain amount of time to reach our destination. We expect the church to be open on Sundays, the lights on, and Eucharist to be celebrated. We have expectations for what is appropriate behavior for ourselves and others. Our days are full of expectations. They offer some predictability and order to our world and lives. There are other expectations, however. They affect us more profoundly than the day-to-day expectations. Sometimes they are expectations of hope and other times they are expectations of dread. Either way they have the power to capture us. The thing about expectations is that they pull us out of the present moment into a future we do not yet have, except as it exists in our head. Pretty soon we begin to act and speak as if our expectations, either of hope or dread, are the reality of our lives. We allow those expectations to shape our attitudes, our beliefs, and the way we relate to others. Those expectations even shape our image of who God is, where God can show up, and how God should act. If God does not meet our expectations, we are often too quick to question God rather than ourselves. We trust our expectations of what God should be doing more than we trust what God is actually doing. Are our expectations of who the Messiah is and how the Messiah should act too narrow. There is a danger of holding our expectations too tightly. Whether they are expectations of hope or expectations of dread our own expectations often blind us to the one who is coming, to the one who is more powerful. We imprison ourselves with a view of God, the kingdom, the world, our own lives that is too small, too narrow. We try to confine God’s work and life to our expectations. But that is not who God is or how God acts. John the Baptist is a man of expectations. Last week’s gospel showed John to be a voice crying out in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” He expects a new kingdom and a new ruler. He expects wrath, fire, axes. He expects one who is more powerful. John’s expectations have given him the confidence and ability to turn his back on the religious establishment, to go the desert, and to seek God in the wild and untamed places of life. John has been confined by his own expectations of who the Messiah is and how the Messiah should act. His vision of the kingdom is too small, his expectation of the Messiah too narrow. That is the danger of holding our expectations too tightly. Whether they are expectations of hope or expectations of dread our own expectations often blind us to the one who is coming, to the one who is more powerful. We imprison ourselves with a view of God, the kingdom, the world, our own lives that is too small, too narrow. We try to confine God’s work and life to our expectations. But that is not who God is or how God acts. John was unusual, not just in the clothing he wore or the food he ate or the message he preached or the baptism he did in the Jordan river, but in his confidence and surety of who he was and what he was put on this earth to do. Will you show your confidence in understanding and knowing that God has put you here for a specific task? Your anticipation for Christmas is matched and exceeded only by the reality that your Lord Jesus lived and died so that your soul might live eternally with him. Amen.

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