Texts: Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146:5-10, Luke 1:46b-55, Matthew 11:2-11
Reflection (focusing on Matthew 11:2-11)
This week’s texts include the simple words from Matthew’s gospel, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” (Mt. 11:4)
The guy who had been crying out in the wilderness, baptizing people who were waiting for their savior, and now found himself imprisoned in King Herod’s stronghold at Machaerus, wants to know about the stories of this man called Jesus that have been trickling back to him in his jail cell. So John sends his people on the outside, his disciples, to ask Jesus if indeed he was the one for whom John had been waiting.
We, too, like to know the story. We access news channels 24/7, keep track of those we know well (and those we have no relationship with at all!) through social media, and when necessary we still actually hold conversations with people. We use internet search engines to get the “4-1-1.” We want to know what’s going on. Tell me the story.
Any experience can provoke a great story (ok, and some not-so- great ones, too!). One of our sons tried to pull the table cloth off the communion table one Sunday, complete with burning candles and bread and cup! It’s a great story, with a fantastic save by a quick-footed adult. This is a tale that makes us laugh and celebrates community.
Our family also tells stories about deep hardships, times in which God has met us in dark valleys, and through which we were accompanied by many others. These are stories that make us cry and remind us of the importance of friends and community.
John the Baptist was looking for the 4-1-1 on Jesus. John already had a story in mind, and he needed to know if Jesus was the main character that he was expecting. Once he was clear about Jesus’ story, John joined the two stories, his own and Jesus’, together.
That’s how sharing the story of Jesus works. Other people tell us what they know about Jesus. Some of these stories are recorded in the Bible and other forms of literature. We also get the privilege of hearing many of these stories told first hand. We then find connections between our own story and the stories of Jesus that others tell. These stories join together, deepening our relationship with God, and continuing to expose a rich narrative of Jesus’ love for all people.
During these weeks leading up to Christmas, a season that the Christian church calls Advent, the stories of Jesus are center stage. Or at least they should be. The reality is that the Jesus story too frequently gets drowned out. The commercialized and secularized stories of Christmas have very little “Christ” in them. Fortunately, the Jesus story challenges the mundane and narcissistic tendencies of our world and invites us to embrace an audacious hope for a world where “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.” (Matthew 11:5)
What stories will you share about Jesus this Advent season? Tell me, what do you see and hear?
Go tell it on the mountain (African-American spiritual)
The angel Gabriel (Basque Carol, “University Carol Book”, 1923/1961)
I love to tell the story (Catherine Hankey & William G. Fischer, 1869)
From the film Despicable Me: After embracing his new role as a father, Gru reads the girls a new bedtime story that he wrote for them. Available at Wing Clips here.
Pray the song of Mary (the Magnificat) in Luke 1:46b-55
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”