Saturday, December 22, 2007

O (VI)

O Antiphon for December 22.
O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save poor humanity, whom you fashioned out of clay.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1366.

Friday, December 21, 2007

O (V)

O Antiphon for December 21.
O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice; come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1366.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

O (IV)

O Antiphon for December 20.
O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel; you open and no one closes; you close and no one opens. Come, and deliver us from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1366.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


O Antiphon for December 19.
O Root of Jesse, you stand for an ensign of humankind; before you kings shall keep silence, and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1365.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Straight No Chaser - 12 Days

One of the most creative a cappella Christmas medleys I've ever heard. Enjoy!

O (II)

O Antiphon for December 18.
O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1365.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Are You The One Who Is To Come?

Are You The One Who Is To Come?
Matthew 11:2-11
December 16, 2007
3rd Sunday in Advent

© 2007 by Christopher D. Drew

Sermon Focus: John the Baptist seems to be disappointed. Last week, we heard him proclaim the message that the kingdom has come, and that another would be coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, and with fire. These week, John finds himself in prison. Ultimately, he will be put to death. While there, be asks a profound question of Jesus – are you the one to come, or should we wait for another? We should reexamine Jesus’ answer this Advent season, when we have keen expectations for a certain kind of savior that conforms his role to our expectation.

Sermon Function: To remind listeners that the Messiah and his Kingdom are not what we might expect or envision. God’s vision for His creation is demonstrated by what Jesus does in obedience to the Father. We are also expected to act in obedience to God’s will for us and for His kingdom.

[Click to Show/Hide Sermon Text]


This is the third week of Advent, and our thematic progression continues. During the first week of Advent, the overarching theme was proclaimed – that we, living in the post-resurrection world, are now waiting on the second coming of Jesus, which we anticipate with hope, and which gives us reason to celebrate the incarnation of the Christ from December 25th through January 6th.

The second week of Advent in the lectionary tells us about the ministry of John the Baptist, and relates to us his proclamation that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated on Earth.

In this third week of Advent, John the Baptist again plays an important role. In each of the years of the lectionary, the theme for this third week has John the Baptist pointing to the Jesus as the Christ. And that is what John does in this week’s text, although his pointing is potentially clouded in confusion, for reasons that will become apparent.

Let us now listen to God’s word to us this day.

[Read Scripture - Matthew 11:2-11]

Opening Illustration

Back when I was a boy, there occurred a funny spectacle in my family that still gets discussed to this day, particularly as we approach the season of the great gift exchange. It seems that my parents wanted to give my sister and me a tremendous gift, one that we were told we would receive within a few weeks. We were promised a gift of amazing wonder and spectacular joy. It would be a gift that exceeded all of our expectations. It’s been so long now that I cannot remember what I imagined the gift to be. At that age, I might have been thinking of Lincoln Logs or Legos or some such thing. I don’t think my sister has ever shared with me what she was expecting, but I know that she was experiencing the same feelings of deep anxiety and anticipation while we awaited our tremendous, spectacular, stunning, gold-plated, ultra-cool, gift, one that hopefully none of my friends’ parents would have been able to match.

In the two or three weeks following the initial promise of the gift, our parents would remind us that it was coming, and that it would be a surprise; such a surprise, in fact, that they could not commit to a day when the gift would be given. It would come to us soon, but at an unexpected day and hour.

Each day, my sister and I would tingle with anticipation. Is this the day? Are we getting our phenomenal new surprise thing today? We can hardly wait! “How much longer?” we would ask. “A bit longer,” they would reply. “You’re going to love it,” they said.

The day FINALLY ARRIVED. It was late in the afternoon, and my folks loaded us up in the back of my dad’s good ol’ VW Rabbit (the original model). We drove around in the waning light of the day until we arrived at a house I didn’t recognize somewhere on the East bench of the Salt Lake Valley. My dad ran to the house, leaving us in the car with mom. After what seemed liked an hour, my dad emerged from the home, holding something in his hands. By now, it was so late that we couldn’t really see what he was holding. Then he arrived at the side of the car, the back door was opened, the overhead light came on, and dad set between us the gift which, we were promised, would be the most wonderful gift of ALL TIME.

He set it down between Bethany and I. At first, I couldn’t figure out what the all-black hair poof was doing in the car, until I started to see it move around a bit on its own.

It was a small puppy dog.

My sister and I looked at it for a bit, then looked at each other, then at our parents.

We started bawling with grief and disappointment. We were inconsolable! “You told us this would be something absolutely amazing!” We cried. “What is this thing? Is this it??”

“It’s a brand new puppy,” my folks explained, “Don’t you like it?” Our bawling only intensified with the question. I couldn’t see my parent’s face through the tears, but I would guess they were utterly crestfallen and confused. How on Earth could we have screwed this up? My expectations hadn’t been met, my sister’s expectations hadn’t been met, and, certainly, not even my parents’ expectations had been met. It was true disappointment all around.

Well, there was no turning back. Our parents encouraged us to try being affectionate with the furball-of-crushed-expectations, and for awhile I think they were really worried that we actually hated the dog. We drove to the local K-Mart, put the puppy in the shopping card, and started stocking up on pet supplies.

This was how my sister and I greeted the arrival of Duffy, the dog that, despite our initially wailing, quickly became the loyal and loving companion of my family for the next 15 plus years.

But boy, the initial disappointment we felt!

Disappointment – When Things Don’t Go As Expected

We have all experienced disappointments in life, times when things just don’t go as expected. A young man in the prime of his high school athletic years is unexpectedly injured and missed the entire basketball season. A small business owner can’t get things turned around, and the dream devolves into a failure and the need to start over. A politician loses a close election, one he or she felt certain of victory. A disease strikes suddenly, a marriage promise is broken. The list goes on. Life can be filled with disappointment when things don’t go as we expect.

In our scripture today, John the Baptist, who just last week appeared in the dessert proclaiming the inauguration of God’s kingdom, this week points to the Christ from a prison cell. He was put there by King Herod for having pointed out Herod’s, uh, indiscretions with a certain member of the royal family. Having been the one fired up with excitement that the kingdom had come, John now sits and waits in prison. Now, Matthew doesn’t try to tell us John’s mental state while in prison, but the overarching narrative in Matthew causes the reader, you and me, to wonder if he wasn’t disappointed with his situation, and wondering if he had had it right back there at the river Jordan. Things weren’t going as expected for John. There was no political revolution, but a man ministering to the people.

In this midst of these confounded expectations, John asks, through his disciples, one of the more profound questions of the entire bible: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another” (Matt 11:3 NRSV)? The question itself implies that John might not be sure of the answer, or simply wants confirmation on his deepest question.

Jesus, you will notice, doesn’t give John a yes or no answer. In fact, one could also imagine, as one writer put it, that “it might have hurt” a little for Jesus to hear John’s question – one that might be framed with a bit of doubt as to Jesus’ identity. Instead, Jesus replies in a away that fulfills the prophetic words of Isaiah:1
Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.” (Matt 11:4-6 NRSV)
Tell John what you hear and see. The Word comes first, and John gets to hear Jesus’ words through John’s disciples, just as we have received Jesus’ Word through the gospels of our Bible. Jesus couples healing with the good news that is brought to the poor. Verse five is particularly important, because it has the specific intent of identifying Jesus’ actions with the inauguration of God’s kingdom.2

So, Jesus’ answer to John is, in essence, “I am the one coming, but not in the way you had likely anticipated.”

What Does This Mean for Us?

And in this Advent season, when so much of the world is in chaos and disorder, as it was in the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, what does Jesus’ words mean for us? Each of us is confronted with the question. Each of us likely comes to the table, even this communion table, with some preconceived idea for what we want our Jesus to be. Some of us, like John the Baptist, want Jesus to overthrow the existing order. Others want a Jesus who will be best friends who will happen to overlook this or that or the other sin that keeps us from knowing Him. Others want a Jesus who will richly bless them with the things they have always wanted. We all have this propensity as sinful humans, the propensity to define God in terms we can understand and cleave to.

But today’s scripture makes it clear that Jesus generally doesn’t accommodate our expectations for his ministry. So this might explain why he doesn’t give a simple “yes” answer to John’s question. Instead, Jesus testifies to the prophetical fulfillment being actualized right in front of anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see.

These acts, these healing and miraculous acts, are not accomplished by Jesus to necessarily convince people that he is the Messiah. Jesus does these things out of radical obedience to the will of his Father in Heaven, as exemplified by the servant theme of the prophet Isaiah, whom Jesus quotes.

We Are Called

And as disciples of Jesus Christ, we also are called to bear witness to the glorious work of God through our obedience to God’s Word as well. We are called to witness to the gospel in everything we do, and not just by faithfully attending worship and other church functions. We are called to much more than that. We are also called to ministry with others, including people we may not be comfortable with, just as Jesus worked and lived with people that his contemporaries weren’t comfortable with.

Jesus shares the good news with John’s disciples and they go on their way. He then turns to the crowds and addresses their expectation regarding John. “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?” “What then did you go out to see?” Again he asks, “What then did you go out to see? A prophet?” Yes, a prophet, one who promised profound, revolutionary change. Such change wasn’t forthcoming, so the crowds were likely wondering a bit about John the Baptist, just as John the Baptist wondered about what Jesus was doing.

Answering his own rhetorical questions, Jesus announces that John the Baptist was the greatest of those born of women. Hidden in this single verse is a promise, a promise that includes you and me. You see, John was a great man, a great prophet, and more than a prophet. But the children of the world who believe in Jesus will have equal, even greater standing that this mighty biblical prophet. For us, that means that through our faithful response to God’s grace, that we too might attain this prize.

This great promise is particularly important for those who are lonely, or sick, or suffering pain or the loss of a loved one. All of these, the least of these, are the once promised the place of honor at the table. This is likely not what many people, including many of us, would expect. Life is full of unfulfilled expectations and disappointments. But for those who are filled with faith, there is the promise of great wonder in the kingdom of heaven. And remember, that kingdom has already come, and it continues to come, until the time when all with be renewed and transformed by God’s glory. Friends, Jesus is the Lord of all, even the Lord of our disappointments. In the midst of what might cause us to suffer, Jesus has saved a place at the banquet table. And that is our hope and the source of our joy this Advent season. Praise be to God.

Let us pray.

Eternal God, you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of your Son. Grant us the wisdom to see your purpose and openness to hear your will, that we too may prepare the way for Christ who is coming in power and glory to establish his kingdom of peace and justice; through Jesus Christ our Judge and Redeemer, the one who saves a place for us at the banquet table of your Kingdom, and the one who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever. Amen.3

Given at First Presbyterian Church, Portland, Texas.

1Hare, Douglas. Matthew. Richmond: John Knox Press, 1993, p. 121.


3Theology and Worship Ministry Unit. Book of Common Worship. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1993, adapted from Prayer of the Day 1, p. 175 (adapted).

O (I)

O Antiphon for December 17.
O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from the beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Quoted in: Johnson, Maxwell. Benedictine Daily Prayer. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2005, as quoted on p. 1365.