At home I was told- “look it’s 10 days to Christmas, just tell good news.” Which is kind of ironic since earlier this week at our pastor’s Bible study we were talking about this week and what we were preaching and a couple of us talked about how this year we had committed to preaching Isaiah. And one person kind of lamented that decision, saying that this week’s reading is pretty much just a repeat of last week. Peaceable kingdom, things growing where once things were barren, hope and peace for God’s children. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH. Won’t that sound kind of cliché and repetitive?
Which got me to thinking. That the real irony is that we’ll listen to the same bad news- death, violence, destruction, anxiety and hopelessness-over and over and over again. And seemingly never tire of it. Two weeks in a row of good news?
Well then the news of the week happened- and again I stand before you to proclaim good news in a world that cannot fathom yet another school shooting, much less frankly the rest of the news of violence and despair. We think we are living in an ever changing advancing world, but we are actually just doing variations on the same unholy theme.
Why do we just keep singing the same old song? Aren’t we finding it kind of lifeless?
Tell me again, why do we do that?
Tell me again.
If you’ve ever watched TV shows or movies, there is a dramatic move called “tell me again.” Like when two people are shown in a car headed somewhere and the passenger turns to the driver and says something like, “tell me again why we’re doing this?” As they drive into the storm. It functions for the character to say out loud what everyone else is thinking- and helps the audience know where the story is going.
Tell me again. This is what John the Baptist is asking. Some people think this is about John wanting to make sure he’s not wasting his time. But John is in prison and he knows his life is likely to be at risk. He’s asking Jesus to tell him again to be reassured. Tell me again- are you really the ONE? Tell me you’ve got this.
That was what was on my mind this week- and maybe yours too. As I am frankly impatient with God. I have a holy longing. Today again we light that pink candle and share words of rejoicing, knowing they are dulled by violence and darkness, we talk of being cared for but are nursing a hunger in moments of doubt and desolation. Tell me again, Jesus.
And so I imagine John there in prison- it’s dark, and foreboding, and he’s separated from the energy of the movement he helped prepare. And he’s said all those prophetic words, but had to be weighed down with disillusionment over the world as it was, and his state. Stuck waiting, not really living and facing death. Will it really be as you say, Jesus?
And Jesus tells him the prophecy is being made true. And I imagine all the imagery of Isaiah dancing in his head perhaps- that suddenly a parched desert will be watered and life on hold will burst forth. And what seems treacherous will be made safe. That the way that has been prepared is being further prepared- healing and wholeness are beginning.
Many of us know that when we have doubts and sorrows, we find it almost impossible to believe there will again be joy, that sorrow will be followed again by gladness. Just like when the seasons bring dormant times, it can seem like they will never change. And if you stand in the desert when it is dry and parched, unless you saw pictures and heard stories of the blanket of riotous flowers you’d never believe it would happen. But it does.
Especially in the desert where it seems God knows that cacti need to have not just a flower, but a riot of color to prove it. That after months of nothing, it seems it suddenly blooms. Just like my mother-in-law’s Christmas cactus. After months of tending it, she’ll invariably say- tell me again why I tend this thing? Wondering but one day you walk in and there’s the first hot pink bloom. And then within days- a shower of flowers spill forth. Sometimes not even for Christmas at all, but in November or March. Proof that you never know when, you just know to look for it. And that one time of blooming may not be enough. Truth is we never tire of it no matter how often it breaks forth.
It’s like God’s good news for us. Breaking forth in the word and meal to reassure us, and meet us in our waiting and longing. Where we find ourselves saying- tell me again. And God is found in our stories of where healing happens, when rejoicing comes, and how new life emerges. God present as we remind ourselves of the places we can only explain by saying God has been at work on the way. You are the one we wait for, O God. And it’s happening even though we do not see it in its fullness. Help us keep with you on the holy way, knowing you’ve got this. That’s why we keep telling the same good news. To be met by Christ who knows we struggle to rejoice and believe but meets us with words of hope and good news. And so we look and we work and we pray- Tell us again and help us find your way. Amen.