By: Rosemary Winslow
Readings: Isaiah 35:1-10, Matthew 11:2-11, James 5:7-10, Psalm 146:5-10
I grew up on a farm in the North near Canada. Winters were long. Day by day we watched the granary and hay mow regain space. Likewise, the jars of fruits and vegetables and the root vegetable bins in the cellar gradually lost their heft. By May we were left with canned tomatoes and fresh rhubarb, and longing for June to arrive with greens and berries. We didn’t have to hope because the seasons were steady and reliable. So we longed for fruition, for summer and fall, and we worked steadily day by day to plow, sow, cultivate, tend, and harvest, filling the barn and cellar again and again each year. ‘Be patient as a farmer,’ James tells us in today’s epistle, ‘Keep hopes high for the Day of the Lord is near.’ If the farmer doesn’t sit idly watching, the metaphor implies, then neither should we; we should keep occupied in the necessary work of plowing our ground, seeding, weeding, tending, watering. Patience is active, a stance taken as we wait, with faith.
As Matthew 11 opens, John the Baptizer is in prison. He sends his disciples to Jesus to ask if He is the one who is awaited. Jesus replies with an echo of Psalm 146 and Isaiah 35: ‘go back and tell John that the blind see, the crippled are restored, the deaf hear, the sick are made well, there is social justice for the oppressed.’ The healed Kingdom, the Whole/Holy Kingdom, is here. Now. And Jesus adds, ‘Happy are those who do not doubt.’ So it is. Any loss of hope is a product of fear. Jesus attributed healings to faith in God, not to himself.
Yet, who among us never doubts? Which of us never experiences fear? How human we all are! So we return to Advent not only in late autumn, but in moments most days. What do you long for? Some version of the day of our Lord—the promised, longed for healed, healthy, whole life to arrive? In those days of less individualism than we know now, ancient peoples viewed happiness as a feature of the whole society. Yet, can we today be truly happy—blessed, filled full—unless we all are healed?
Lord, guide our longing for Your Presence in our hearts and the hearts of all. We together long to know Your Presence in our hearts and in the heart of the beloved community, in the heart of the World.