Friday of the Second Week of Advent
The famous violin prodigy Joshua Bell once performed incognito at L’Enfant metro station in Washington, D.C., playing challenging classical works on his violin dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. Over 1000 people passed by, with almost none lingering at the (unknown) chance to hear a free virtuoso performance from someone who just nights earlier had commanded $100 a seat (and those were only the “ok” seats) in a Boston concert hall. Bell played for 45 minutes, collecting only $32 in tips.
In Advent, we face a similar challenge to those commuters. Will we miss the coming of Christ because he, too, looks so ordinary?
Just before today’s Gospel reading, John the Baptist had sent an inquiry from prison to Jesus: “Are you the Christ?” Jesus replies by telling John’s followers to report to John: “Go back and report what you’ve seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear….” He says, in effect, “look and listen at what’s happening. And then answer: ‘Who am I?’”
It’s after that statement that Jesus chides the crowd that they are missing it. “This generation,” he says, can’t see what’s right in front of them. They criticized John for NOT eating or drinking (and thus not meeting their expectations); they then criticized Jesus FOR eating and drinking (and thus not meeting their expectations). Why won’t you pay attention to the “deeds” instead of other preconceived notions, Jesus asks?
Jesus implicitly repeats the same message he sent to John: “look at what’s happening here.” The imprisoned are free, the dead are raised to life, and good news is proclaimed to the poor. That’s the sign of Messiah among us. Listen. Look. Pay attention. Maybe it’s not just like you imagined. But it’s still the Messiah, the Christ.
Let’s pray that we have eyes to see Christ here and now. I don’t want to walk by the violin prodigy, but instead I want to be drawn in by the beauty of the works of Bach or Schubert sung from his instrument. Even more, I don’t want to miss the God-with-us, Immanuel – who shows up in the beauty of hope in the midst of despair, of light overcoming darkness, of courage outlasting fear, of God’s “yes” ultimately outlasting any “no.” God grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to believe.
Joel A. Nichols
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor, School of Law