3rd Sunday of Advent

What thoughts come to mind when you think of jails?
Being locked up in a confined area is very traumatic.  Not only do we loose our freedom, we also lose other things; human contact, things like conversation, relationships and touch.  We are no longer connected with the outside world.  We no longer know what is going on, we can’t see for ourselves or make judgements for ourselves about what is happening.  Being locked up also means we lose our ability to be who we really are; we can’t express or thoughts, our hopes, our desires.  We can’t be the person or live the life we want when imprisoned; being locked up means we are not able to be who we truly are.

John the Baptist would have been going through those exact things.  He was supposed to be the voice of one in the desert, proclaiming the kingdom of heaven, but now he is silenced.  He knew Jesus, the coming Messiah and made way for his coming, but now he was cut off from any contact.  John has heard of the miracles, but they are doing him no good in prison. He will die in prison. There are no miracles coming his way.

The certainty of his wilderness proclamations has now turned into questions: Being imprisoned, locked him away from being the person he wanted to be; the person God wanted him to be.  The person he needed to be, caused him to question who Jesus is.  ‘Is Jesus truly who he said he was?’  Am I proclaiming something I don’t even know I believe myself?  You can just imagine the fears ‘have I been over zealous in proclaiming Jesus as saviour’? ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” John questions.  His imprisonment stopped him from being the person God wanted him to be.

Many people, and you may be one of them, are also imprisoned like John.  And I don’t mean in an actual jail, but are imprisoned by circumstances. Self imprisonment, or the sense of ‘being locked up’ in your own body or home is real and it is something we may be dealing with personally.

Remember your thoughts on what it must be like being locked up, the feeling of loneliness, separation, and lose of who we really are, well that is exactly what some of us, and many in the community feel.

1) Perhaps it’s the jail of depression and anxiety which stops you from enjoying life; stops you from friendships and making new friends. Those suffering depression say its like darkness; just like standing in a dark cell, not knowing where to turn.
2)  Imprisonment can also come in the form of a medical condition, where you are a prisoner in your own home; unable to go out, unable to express your personality or live your life with other people.
3)  The feelings of imprisonment come when we are caught in obsessive behaviours; alcoholism, drug addiction, bingeing, gambling and internet porn.  All of these are prisons which keep us locked up from being who were really are and lock us up from being the people we are called to be.

And when this happens to us, we begin to question the purpose of our life.  For non-believers, they question whether there really is a God, and how God could allow bad things to happen to them.  For believers, as John did, we begin question whether Jesus is real; is he the one who can make a difference in our lives?  We echo John’s question ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”  Imprisonment brings insecurity and uncertainty about Jesus, because we’re not experiencing the freedom he gives, we seem to be locked up. And we’re not being the person we can be.

So what does Jesus say to answer this uncertainty?  What does he say to John: look John, I will come and break you free from your prison?  No, he doesn’t offer a way out, but he offers hope; hope that even though we as his disciples are caught up in prison, we may still know that he is the Christ   And he offers hope by pointing away from John’s imprisonment, away from ourselves and our needs, and points to others; to those who receive the free gift of mercy; his miracles.

He points to how ‘the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.’ Yes, the miracles of Jesus reveal the heart of God; his love for the world and his love others; and this is how He wants John to know he is the Christ; by his love toward others.

And this is how Jesus wants us to know him; not JUST by what he has done for us, or by what we NEED him to do for us, but by what is DOING for others.  Jesus wants us to know him as the saviour who lays down his life for others so that they may be saved.  And the miracles are evidence of this; the breaking in of the Kingdom of God.  You can know Jesus is the one when you turn from your own needs to see the miracles happen in the lives of others.  When you see ‘The blind, the lame, those who have leprosy, the deaf all healed, the dead are raised, and the good news preached,’ you know Jesus is the messiah.

We have already witnessed these things, in our own lives in the miracle of our baptism.  Here we are given victory over sin, death and the power of the devil.  It is through the waters of baptism that Jesus set us free; free from our deepest darkest jail- the bondage to sin and death.  What happens to us in our life, the prisons we endure, the suffering, pain, anxiety and the likes, will make no difference to the grace we have received.  Jesus is still our saviour.  We are free.

But now as one of his own, he is calling us, as he did to John the Baptist, to turn from our concerns, turn from our worries and turn toward those around us; turn in faith from looking inwards to looking outwards, to look to the needs of others, to witness the miracles Jesus is performing in the lives of those around us.

When we look out from ourselves as Jesus calls us to do, we see miracles: people coming to faith in Jesus; people we never thought would believe.  When we look out from ourselves we see Jesus performing miracles in people lives; a baby has been conceived for the Ebbs family, the Seminary family we support, when doctors said she would never become pregnant.  We witness people raised from the dead, alive and well when they should have been killed in a terrible accident.

Yes, this is our God at work, here in our church, here in our community, breaking into our world, bringing with him the wonders of kingdom of God.  So let us join him in his mission and be focused on others; working with Jesus to bring about miracles in peoples lives.  And as we do this, let us encourage each other with the words of Isaiah “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come,’

Amen

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