What are we expecting?
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" When the men had come to him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, 'are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?'" Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."
In a way, this is a sad scene. John the Baptist, who has heralded Jesus as the Christ, the "one who is to come" now wonders if he was wrong.
Jesus has been hanging out with the lowest of the low, not bringing the nation of Israel back into power. He has been preaching peace. He has been telling people to love their enemies and to be merciful and not to judge. So John wonders, is this really the One?
Jesus's answer is simple. What has come out of my work here?
He doesn't ask what John was expecting.
He just says, What did you see and hear? The blind, the lame, the deaf, the ill are healed, are made whole, are restored to the community, no longer outcast. The dead have been raised through the power of God.
Don't be upset that I am not what you thought I ought to be. I am about God's kingdom, in which the community is restored to wholeness by having all of its members returned to it. I am about God's work of healing and restoration.
In Advent, we have the opportunity to consider who this God is who is coming to us again. There's a lot of focus on the baby, on the way that God comes, on the human aspect, the helpless baby born to a lowly mother, on the event of incarnation; there's a little focus, too, on the part about Jesus coming again in glory, about judgment. We are encouraged to make room in our hearts for this coming.
But our reading today takes us further - it asks us to consider what it is that happens on earth, in our lives, because of the incarnation. We are encouraged to stop to think about how it is we know that God is present, that God's work is being done.
Since we don't have Jesus with us as a human, and yet we believe that the Spirit empowers us to continue his work in this world, we do actually have to look to see God's hand at work around us.
This encounter with John's disciples, after John has wondered himself, “Is this really the One?” encourages us to consider for ourselves: What are we expecting? What do we expect God's work to look like?
Jesus tells us plainly. It's about healing - all sorts of healing. Physical, emotional, communal, cosmic even. It's about things being made right. It's about the work of restoration.
And so another thing we do in Advent is consider this question: What do we expect God to be like? What do we expect God's work to look like?
Jesus says God's work looks like restoration to wholeness and health.
So how and where do we need to focus our eyes? Through what lens do we need to look upon the world so that we can see that work and prepare to join in it?