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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

by Kristin Berkey-Abbott

The readings for Dec. 11, 2011:

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126 or Luke 1:47-55
The LORD has done great things for us. (Ps. 126:4) or The Lord has lifted up the lowly. (Luke 1:52)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Notice that in this week's Gospel, John has a chance to claim greatness; he could even claim to be the Messiah, and people would believe him. But he knows his role in the story: to get people ready. He tells everyone that someone is coming, someone greater than him.

John the Baptist probably seems odd to most of us, John the Baptist, this man who lived in the desert and ate locusts and honey. What are we to make of him? Are we to model our lives on his? Does being a Christian mean we forsake the familiar and eat bugs?

Well, yes and no. The Advent stories are full of people who could serve as models. John the Baptist, along with the Old Testament prophets (like Isaiah, from whom we've also been hearing a great deal) remind people that the lives they live now are not the ones they've been promised. They remind people that life could be SO much better, and they implore people to get on board with the Kingdom vision. Prepare the way for salvation. What would that way look like?

Mary, also, serves as a model. When told of her role in the Nativity story, she doesn't tell Gabriel all the ways that God's vision won't work for her. She remembers God's promises through the generations and rejoices in her ability to be part of the plan.

There are more stories to come, familiar Christmas stories. Who are you in these narratives? Are you a shepherd, keeping watch? Are you Herod, so threatened that you lash out in fear and hatred when you hear the Good News? Are you one of the Wise Men, willing to set out on a long voyage? Are you Joseph, a stranger in a strange land, with a family to care for? How do you respond when God (or God's messengers) appear, when they say, "Behold, I bring you great news of a great joy?" How are you helping to deliver that message to all the people?

We are not the Messiah. But our Messiah invites us to be part of the creation of the new kingdom. What part shall we play?

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