The Holy Gospel: December 12, 2010 (Year A)

Read:  Matthew 11:2-11

Meditation:  “Doubt in the Dungeon”

John the Baptist appears for the second time in this year’s cycle of Advent stories.  But this time, he is not prophesying from the desert; he is pondering from the dungeon.

The traditional Advent programs at our churches do not contain this scene.  We are so focused on the angels, shepherds, wise men, and holy family—on the celebration of Christmas—that we can easily forget that the days were also ones of struggle.  John re-enters the picture to remind us of this important note.

Many people will have a “blue Christmas” rather than a “joy to the world” one.  John represents all those who look Jesus squarely in the face and yet ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  John walks onto the stage of our Advent drama to let us know it is okay to doubt in the dungeon.

If this were not so, God would have to check our “spiritual ID” at the door, allowing into the season only those who are upbeat and “doing just fine.”  John the Baptist stands in for the rest of us who come limping to Christmas rather than leaping—weeping rather than laughing.

The passage ends with Jesus telling John’s messengers to go back and tell him what they have seen and heard.  The assumption is that if they do this, John will have his faith renewed and his confidence restored, even in the face of certain death.  Advent is a prime time to take another look at Jesus (all of him, not just ‘baby Jesus’), and let that view renew our hearts.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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