Advent 3C                                            December 12, 2021                       St. John, New Orleans

Hurry! Hurry! step right up. 

That's what carnival barkers say to try to get you to pay to see amazing things. 

Perhaps they’re oddities of nature, or unusual looking people. 

Maybe it's an amazing feat of strength or some sort of agility from a contortionist. 

Often, however, the reality is underwhelming.

And yet all of us have witnessed some utterly amazing things. 

And when we recount our stories, others seem either uninterested, or doubtful. 

They either shrug their shoulders and say, “huh? I guess you just had to be there to get it.” 

or, they wince with a crooked eye and say, “Yeah. Riiiiight.”

Today John the Baptist disciples asked Jesus, “are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another ?” 

many had hoped John was the one, but of course he knew he wasn't.

 His ministry was to prepare the people for the messiah's arrival 

and because John took his calling seriously, he wanted to be sure that Jesus was the one. 

If John could know for sure, then he could alter his message to the people. 

Instead of pointing to an unnamed future savior in hypothetical terms, 

he could, instead, point to the actual, “Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world.” 

but, just in case he wasn't, he sent two disciples to Jesus. 

Not only would this give him plausible deniability of even meeting up with Jesus, 

but this would also keep the throngs following John at bay as well. 

Imagine what the Romans would do if two revolutionary splinter groups like Johns and Jesus we're combined? 

As it is, John is not well liked by Herod. 

He would eventually be imprisoned and beheaded. 

But, at this time, he is still free and keeping a low profile that benefits his ministry.

So, Jesus replies to John's disciples, “go and tell John which you've seen and heard.” 

those who are sick, maimed, or were broken, are healed, and made whole.

Even the dead are raised up. 

The poor are given good news.  Hope, in other words. 

And there are many who do not shy away from following him, 

even though some are trying hard to discredit, malign, and even destroy him.

 in other words, Jesus is saying, 

“what more can I do? If I'm not the one, what else would the real Messiah be doing?”

Many people wanted the Messiah to be a man who would make Israel great again. “MIGA,” if you will. 

And God could have done that. Many of his kings had the chance and blew it. 

But worldly power and influence could only get you so far 

and being a wealthy nation only serves you as long as there is something to buy. 

What God wanted for his people, however, wasn't power, influence, or wealth. 

God wanted for Israel what they needed more than anything and, what obviously many of John's disciples wanted as well: 

to receive forgiveness for their sinful rebellion against God, 

and to be restored to his favor.

Yes, Israel, once again, had a king, and even and he even claimed to be Jewish. 

The Kingdom had been “restored” and Israel had Caesar to thank for that. 

And, given its importance along the trade routes, Israel had a certain amount of wealth and influence with their king Herod. 

But everyone also knew it was a sham. 

Herod was a subservient of Rome. 

And the Roman army was in Jerusalem to protect Herod from his subjects 

as much as they were sent to protect Caesar’s interests and project his will upon the community at the same time. 

Rumors of revolt and rebel rebellion were always in the air 

and those accused of insurrection were dealt with harshly., imprisoned 

and, if found guilty, crucified at the city gates to make an impression upon the public. 

So, when Jesus comes upon the scene, he threatens to turn this well-oiled political machine on its head. 

Either Jesus will end up getting himself and his disciples killed, 

or he will change the world by his reign.

So, what did John's disciples see and hear? 

Was it a war council discussing strategy? 

Was it a workshop full of blacksmiths forging weapons and tools of war? 

Was it a roomful of merchants and landowners pledging their power and wealth to fund the upcoming battle? 

No. They witnessed the poor, infirm, week, oppressed, injured, maimed, lame, deaf, and blind. 

All clamoring to see and hear Jesus, 

trusting that he could make them complete, clean, and confident once again., 

so that they could return to their families, their work, 

and most importantly, to worship God in his holy house.

The power of Jesus was not in his ability to tear down the authorities, but to raise up those who had been laid bare. 

The Messiah came to bring justice and mercy as no human king could. 

The Messiah was for all people; where borders were meaningless. 

The Messiah came to bring his people safety and security for eternity, not just a few months or years.

 the Messiah was more than a great man, 

he was a man sent from God 

to elevate his people to live in glory with him forever.

This time of year, the world is focused on the material things of this earth. 

The gifts, decorations, food and parties are designed to make us smile and be content. 

The songs on the radio evoke fond memories of Christmas past or fervent hopes of Christmas present and future. 

The movies let us escape to a world where happy endings are guaranteed.

But it's all fake news and the jolly red elf can't bring it to pass.

The truth is life is always difficult because we will always be sinners living in a broken world. 

We still get sick at Christmas.

We still have financial struggles in December.

Mental illness doesn't go away with a Christmas card. 

Hostile countries still rattle sabers. 

Viruses keep infecting new people. 

Friends and loved ones die.

What the world needs now is NOT another pop song, or silly toy, or more Christmas lights in a park or a hotel lobby. 

What the world needs at Christmas is a healer.