Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3, Common English Bible)
Do you remember P. D. Eastman’s book Are You My Mother? The little bird hatches out of her egg and begins searching for her mother. She walks right past the mother bird because she does not recognize her or know what she looks like. She proceeds to ask different animals, “Are you my mother?”
We can identify with the little bird. There are times and moments in our lives when we search for Jesus. But, we don’t recognize him. We may walk right past him, not even knowing it is him.
In Matthew 11, John’s life has taken an unexpected turn. For John, he was imprisoned, and asks, “Are you my Jesus?” For us, we may be imprisoned in our need to be first or right. Or imprisoned in our fussing and complaning. Imprisoned in our busyness.
Or we are imprisoned by the holiday.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10, NRSV)
My wife, Megan, was out of town.
Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30″
One of the aspects of Advent and Christmas we often forget is how God’s birth and reign turned the world on its head. We want to think of Christ as bringing love and happiness which he certainly does. But Advent is also a time of repentance, a time to consider the ways in which we have not acted in holy and just ways. In passages like the Magnificat, we hear that the hungry will be filled and the rich sent away empty (Luke 1: 53). At this time of year, we also hear words from the prophets who warn us what will happen if we refuse to take care of the poor.
Amos warns us what will happen if we “trample on the needy” (v. 4).
This week I learned about the death of Don Victor, a pastor who answered God’s call on his life to be in ministry of people in a shantytown. I’ve been reflecting on his ministry this week.
Where pavement meets gravel in Cartago, Costa Rica, is where you enter the shantytown of Los Diques. This is a place where people with no other means go. Families escaping abusive fathers. Mothers addicted to drugs. Grandmothers raising grandchildren. Young boys whose only way out is to join a gang; young girls whose only way out is to sell themselves. And this is a place the government would rather not exist, which is why they have been so reluctant over the years to give the basic necessities for these people.
Yet, none of this mattered to Don Victor.
There was a major controversy in the early church ( something I know we are not accustomed to today). Luke documents the controversy in Acts 15. There was one major division between Jew and Gentile.
The Acts 15 controversy centered on whether Gentile Christians should go through the same rituals that the Jewish Christians did. It was an issue of what qualified someone to be welcomed into the community. The Jewish Christians were not recognizing the Gentile Christians membership in the church.