Posted by: Titus Presler | December 11, 2011

A Prisoner of Hope: Meditation for Advent III Sunday

Signs of the kingdom, signs of God’s reign, are center-stage in the drama of John the Baptizer.

The world’s power had done its work on John, and from Herod’s dungeon he was wondering whether he’d been deluded or discerning.  He’d acted on signs he thought he was seeing as he sparked a renewal movement and proclaimed the Coming One.  He’d risked everything in joining what he thought was God’s mission.  Now he was wondering.  So he sent friends to ask Jesus.

“Go and tell John what you see and hear,” Jesus told John’s messengers.  “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 11:2-11)

In other words, God was up to something!  What was wounded was being healed.  What was partial was being made whole.  God was entering the human situation to embrace and lift up and renew.  Jesus and his ministry signified God’s realm breaking in on the realm of the world.  It is that inauguration that we anticipate in Advent.

We hope that the news reassured John and gave him joy.  We hope he felt confirmed in the risk he’d taken and the witness he’d made.  If so, it would be because he realized that the signs were just that: signs that pointed to a larger reality, not the whole reality itself.  Jesus signified the leading edge of God’s reign, but that reign was far from complete.

John himself was one prisoner who was not going to be freed.  His own prospects were sinking.  He was victim to a monarch’s whim, to a flagrant abuse of power.  His martyrdom was ignominious as lust and hatred brought his head on a platter.

It has continued thus in countless ways in the 2,000 years since the birth we adore.  So it is reasonable to be fatalistic about the triumph of human sin and pessimistic about the difference we can make.

Instead, God challenges us to hope.  In that hope, God invites us to challenge the powers that impose poverty and injustice and violence on the human family.  God invites us to join Jesus at the leading edge of what God is up to in the world.  Yes, it’s a minority enterprise.  Yes, the immediate results may be meager, and there will be setbacks.  Yet joining God is the only hope there is.

This meditation is excerpted from Titus Presler’s “Alert for Signs: Seeing and Praying through Advent” (Forward Movement Publications). 


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