Photo by Daniel Gutko on Unsplash

God's Word on Sunday: Live a worthy life as we await the Lord

  • December 11, 2022

Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 11 (Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

Should we blame God for the dark and frightening state of the world? People tend to do that in one way or another. Either they blame God for “allowing” negative things to happen and then reject God, or they accuse God outright of being the perpetrator. 

Admittedly, there are some passages of the Old Testament that might lend themselves to those interpretations. But a closer examination of the entire Old Testament record tells a different story. First, disasters and negative events are always the result of human sin, not the whim of a capricious God. God is continually revealed as the one who gives life — in fact, in God there is only life. Finally, God always desires the well-being and happiness of humanity. Unfortunately, humans continually derail God’s plans. 

Isaiah’s prophecy was given in the early sixth century B.C., amid the destruction and misery of Jerusalem and the exile. The people of Israel still had much suffering and struggle to undergo, but God assured them that there was a wonderful future on the other side of that dark experience. They would once again know prosperity and happiness. Vivid and evocative images were used to convey the message that God is the giver of life. The eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped; the lame will leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. 

In the presence of God who is life itself, creation cannot remain broken and hurting. God’s presence brings joy and blossoming even in the parched desert, whether the desert is real or metaphorical. The presence of Jesus in the New Testament healed and restored many and should be understood as a visitation of God. It is no wonder then that the prophecy also urges people to be strong and to fear not. If such a God is for us, what is there to fear? God is with us even — especially — in the darkest and most difficult moments.

But people ask the obvious question: When? How long, Lord? When people become impatient, they often do rash and stupid things. James urges his readers to take a lesson from the prophets and exercise patience. He urged them to be strong and not afraid, for the coming of the Lord was near at hand. This was written long ago, and it has not yet occurred, so we might ask when it will occur. Patience is the answer, together with the knowledge that the coming of the Lord can mean many things. The Lord is always coming and is always present in one form or another. James insists that we live worthily in the meantime, not grumbling, criticizing and attacking others.

John the Baptist was no fool. He knew that he would never leave the prison alive, and while he waited in darkness and confinement, he began to harbour some doubts. Was Jesus really the longed-for Messiah? He had not announced His presence with huge and dramatic gestures — He merely went about doing good, offering comfort and healing people. Jesus refused to give the messengers a direct and unambiguous reply. He told them to report what they had seen: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. 

In view of what the prophets say about the God of life and what the divine presence means in terms of wholeness and well-being, there was only one possible conclusion. Jesus was the presence of the living God, and He blessed those who were not offended by the human form in which He came. He then spoke of John the Baptist and alluded to the expectations that people had, none of which John met. Jesus insisted that John was much more than a prophet — he was the Elijah figure prophesied in Malachi. The end times were upon them. Jesus went on to insist that John was the greatest human being alive, but then enigmatically added that the least born in the kingdom of God was greater than John. The spiritual order was changing — in the transformation that Jesus brought, those who received the full knowledge and experience of God would surpass all those who came before. 

As we come to know and experience God, we too will be transformed.