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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent 12/12

Last week I didn’t pay much attention to John the Baptist, but we really shouldn’t let Advent go by without at least giving him a nod because Jesus certainly gave him a nod.  In today’s gospel the story has moved along, we’re thirty or so years past Christmas and John is in jail asking questions about Jesus.  I’ve never been in jail, but I guess it gives you time to think and what John was apparently thinking was that things weren’t going as he had expected.  There was something about Jesus that didn’t fit his expectations of him, so he’s asking is Jesus the one, or are we to wait for another.  Contrast this though with what Jesus says about John; he has no doubts praising him as a prophet and a messenger, among those born of women no one is greater than John.

Jesus didn’t fit John the Baptist’s vision of the Messiah though.  In large part he was probably thinking that if Jesus was the Messiah, he, John, shouldn’t be in prison and instead a bad guy like King Herod should be in trouble.  John’s expectations weren’t being met and we know what that’s like.  We could pretty much ask the same kind of questions he did; if Jesus is the Messiah, shouldn’t things be different?  Shouldn’t we be closer to the peace on earth we’ll hear announced by the angels on Christmas Eve instead of continuing to hear about conflicts of one kind or another all over the world?  You can understand John’s questions.

As usual, Jesus didn’t provide a straight answer.  He just said to tell John what you see and what you hear and you know, that’s still pretty much how it goes; each of us weighs the evidence of what we see and hear and decide and of course different people make different decisions based on the same evidence.  It’s kind of like I said last week; some can only see a dead stump; others see a shoot of life coming out of that same stump.

More and more I think someone’s response has to do with their capacity to be amazed by things that can’t be fully explained or fully understood.  The story of Jesus’ birth that we anticipate and celebrate in a couple of weeks is one of those things.  It’s an amazing story if you can be amazed by it.  I think it moves everyone emotionally, for all of us it conjures up memories and sentiment, it’s amazing that way, but it really becomes amazing when you see and imagine the theological truth revealed in it, the truth that God loved us enough to become one of us, that he loved this world enough to become part of it in order to meet us in our need.  It’s amazing when the reality of the fact that it is this event that begins to define who we are as people in relationship with God.

Sometimes for me it’s through music that the truth of the amazement becomes real.  I’ve noticed it recently in the long choir practices we’ve been having in preparation for next week’s cantata service as sometimes the meaning and truth of the words the composer uses concerning Jesus and what he represents hit me in ways that I didn’t necessarily expect as we practice them over and over again.  Somehow in a musical setting they strike me differently than if I just read them.  It’s not a rational, intellectual response, it’s something else. 

I’ve also seen it watching the Sunday School kids practice for the program today.  Somehow, watching their faces as they’ve learned these familiar carols has been kind of moving.  They’re cute, there’s always that, but the beauty and truth of the words and the reality concerning the baby Jesus as the Messiah is evident as it comes from the mouths of children.  I can’t really explain it but maybe you know what I’m talking about. 

It’s a season of amazement and I hope that the stories you’ve heard this morning about St. Lucia and John the Baptist, along with the singing of the children help you to weigh the evidence concerning what all this that we celebrate means.  I hope you’re amazed.

Rev. Warren Geier

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor

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one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”


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