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Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

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Advent 12/15/2013

With Christmas just a week and a half away now, we loosen the Advent strings a little bit and let the Sunday School and Confirmation kids move us forward with their telling of the Christmas story in words and song, kind of a preview of things to come and always one of the highlights of the season.

Other than that though, you perhaps also notice that in the lessons appointed for today that were just read, no such loosening of Advent takes place.  There’s barely a hint of Christmas in any of them.  There are visions of the future in Isaiah and James but in the gospel we jump way beyond the birth of Jesus or anticipation of his birth, all the way to John the Baptist in prison wondering if he was wrong about Jesus.       

I have to say that John the Baptist kind of intrigues me making me wonder exactly who he was and what role he played in Jesus being Jesus.  The fact that all four gospels make a pretty big deal about John being the forerunner, the messenger paving the way for Jesus, seems significant.   Luke even has a birth narrative for John that kind of runs parallel to his birth narrative for Jesus which adds to John’s significance in Luke’s gospel and Luke also identifies Jesus and John as cousins which makes the connection between them even closer.  John the Baptist clearly played a role in the development of Jesus, but even though all the gospels include him, exactly what John’s role and relationship with Jesus was remains vague. 

Today he just has questions.  If John had assumed that Jesus was the one for whom he was preparing the way, something didn’t seem right.  Like others before him, John was expecting a different kind of messiah, more of a political or military leader who would free them from being ruled by Rome; but with Jesus that didn’t seem to be happening.  So from prison John told his followers to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

Jesus responded with the vision from Isaiah, “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.”  It’s part of another of Isaiah’s visions of a new creation where things that seem unchangeable are turned inside out and upside down with everlasting joy being the result.  It’s yet another case where Jesus, when asked a question, didn’t give a straight answer but instead offered an image and then, in essence said, “What do you think?” 

John wasn’t and isn’t the only one to have questions about Jesus.  Even the most faithful among us, at some point have to wonder, “Could we have it all wrong?  Is Jesus for real?  Does all this really matter?”

When John the Baptist’s messengers asked the question Jesus responded with the vision of Isaiah, but in light of what we’ve done here today and what other churches do today or at some point during this season, what Jesus could also say is, “Listen to the children. Listen to the children as they tell the story.”  I know that one reason people enjoy Sunday School Christmas programs is because the kids are cute.  They are cute, but there is also something special about hearing the Christmas story told by children.  Somehow, their voices have a way of cutting through our cynicism, through our questions and uniquely open us to the truth of the story.  Like Jesus when he answered or didn’t answer questions, the children don’t explain anything to us, they just tell the story and let it work on us, and work on us it does.

It is still Advent; there are still Advent things for us to do, but there is also a story that needs to be told.  Today the kids are kind of our John the Baptist, preparing the way for the story, preparing the way for us to celebrate again the birth of a savior, Christ the Lord.

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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