“Yes”—Sunday Advent 1B tells of endings.
“Yes”—Sunday Advent 2B has wilderness prepare us for the story of One who is more Powerful, losing our self-story amongst wilderness brambles.
Now, Sunday Advent 3B shows our challenge to entering the story of “the One more powerful,” to be our rabid hunger to say, “Yes,” to defining God, people and circumstances, as “either this or that.”
Narrow “either-or thinking” narrows our vision from seeing the breadth of God’s story unfolding in and around us.
Lutheran Christians, speaking historically, see God’s story through the broad view of “both-and thinking.” This means saying, “Yes,” to seemingly opposites both at once, rather than saying, “Yes,” to one, then “No,” to the other.” Try these, “both-ands,” where we say, “Yes,” to seemingly opposites: Is the Bible God’s word or is Jesus God’s Word? Yes. Is Jesus God or is Jesus human? Yes. Is Mary virgin or with Child? Yes.
“Both-and thinking” says “YES” to seemingly opposite things. What if we use “both-and thinking” to view God’s unfolding story, especially when God, people, and circumstances, seem opposite of our understanding? What if, rather than rushing to define, we slow down, say “YES” to using our, “both-and lens,” to take a second glance?
Maybe Lectionary Year B gives us a second glance chance in offering the John wilderness story from John’s gospel on Advent 3B, right after offering the John wilderness story from Mark’s gospel on Advent 2B. The John wilderness story, a second glance chance.
What if God, through God’s Church, invites our “Yes,” to giving John’s wilderness story a second glance? Shouldn’t we say “Yes” to giving John’s wilderness story a second glance because there’s more to see than one glance offers?
Mark’s gospel shows John as wilderness baptizer; John’s gospel shows John as wilderness witness. Is John wilderness baptizer or is John wilderness witness? Yes.
Wilderness shows that we cannot create blueprints for our lives, that we need the story of “the One more powerful.” On Advent 1 and 2, wilderness displaces us as it tears our self-story apart. On Advent 3, wilderness offers us a broader view as it creates a place for us in a new story. Is wilderness self-story destroyer or new story-creator? Yes.
Religious leaders go to wilderness, find John, then work to get John to define himself. John is outside of their understanding, so they try to nail John down as, “either this or that.”
John avoids getting nailed down, refuses to define himself, says, “I am not Messiah.” Starving to define him, they ask if he’s Elijah. John says, “I am not.” Then they want to define him as a prophet. And, John says, “No.” John avoids their efforts to define him.
So, they change interrogation tactics, push John to self-define, command John to answer, “Who are you? Let’s have the answer.” John doesn’t play along. How can he? He is witness to light. A witness to light has one job—to reflect light. And isn’t reflecting light, particularly reflecting light of Messiah, truly beyond our understanding and beyond our definition? Yes.
Two points John’s gospel pushes, more than the other gospels combined, is the idea of witness and of light. John’s gospel uses light as sign of Messiah and advent of Messiah. Did you study light in grade school? Were you making pretty rainbows on the ceiling, dispersing light with a prism? Were you focusing light with a magnifying glass to burn paper? Or, is your answer to both, “Yes!” Way before you dispersed light, focused light, or did both, around 300 years before Jesus was born, Greek philosophers tried to define light. Some defined light as wavy, others defined light as particles clinging together like a string of beads. Those who defined light as wavy won out. Their view holds true today, but John’s use of the word light has nothing to do with this definition. which might be why John’s use of the term light confused religious leaders. Do you suppose the religious leaders’ narrow definition kept them from seeing light as something more?
Do you suppose narrow definition narrowed them? Kept them from receiving a new broader vision? Their narrow view causes them to ask, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” Even when John reflects the light, saying, “Among you stands one whom you do not know, he one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” “Yes,” Jesus, source of light, is in the crowd, yet they cannot see Jesus. Their narrow definitions blind them to the One right before their very eyes. Don’t our definitions do this to us? Don’t our definitions blind us to the One right before our very eyes?
What definitions narrow you? What definitions narrow how, when, and where you see Jesus standing among you waiting for his sandal to be untied? Have your definitions blinded you from seeing Jesus Christ?
John’s response to 1st Century Judean religious is John’s response to 21st Century religious, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” That’s John’s word. Blindly, don’t we define that word solely as our need to re-define? And wouldn’t that narrow view, blind us to seeing John’s cry as something broader than redefinition? What if John’s cry includes openness to God? What if John’s cry includes our being so open to God that we see God’s light in others, in ourselves, in our circumstances, right now? Wouldn’t such open light perception move us past our rush for definitions, slow us to see a new story taking shape, brighten how we see absolutely everything, offer a second glance chance to see Jesus not only as the One who is coming, but as the One who stands here now? Is Jesus among us or is Jesus coming to us? “Yes,” Sunday Advent 3B says, “YES!”