Advent III, 2023

In this week’s Gospel reading, John points to the One whom you do not know but is standing in your midst (John 1:26). There is so much possibility in that enigmatic statement. Missionaries tell me that the first lesson they learned in the bush was that they were not bringing Christ to the pagans. Jesus had been there long before they arrived. They were merely articulating what had always been true. Jesus, unknown by all humanity, is standing among us. We struggle to see Him. He is sometimes unrecognized.

This is really important. The incarnation of Christ, his taking up human nature to Himself, is not something which is only true when we believe it. It is not somehow dependent upon my faith or my acceptance of it. It is an objective truth. God is in the flesh, or, as John prefers to say it, “in the meat” of my humanity. That is true whether we believe it or not. There is only one humanity and Jesus participates in that. That means Jesus is human and all humans share that with Him.

But I also take great comfort from this fact. Jesus can also be right in the middle of Lutheran parish and we do not see Him. Even though I often do not recognize my Lord’s presence, that does not make him absent. I think too often we have subscribed to the idea that God is only paying attention and aware of me when I am paying attention to Him. But God is never absent from my life. Jesus rose from the dead for the purpose of being alive and present for me. I might not be very good at paying attention to Him, but He is very good at watching out for me.

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