Thursday, December 5, 2013

Get to the Point!

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who goes on and on and can never seem to get to the point? Perhaps the intention was to tell you about something that happened over the last weekend, but what ends up happening is that your friend is reminded, by their own recounting, of something else. So they begin to talk about that something else. This, of course reminds them of something else. And so, they tell you about that as well. And, oh that's right, there was this thing that happened last weekend.

Maybe you're reading this right now and wondering if I'll ever get to the point with this week's blog post. Well, here it is:  Jesus. Of course.  We all know that Jesus is the point, that Jesus is the "reason for the season" and so on. I suspect that if I took a vote (and I'm not, won't, mustn't, can't) it would be near unanimous that Jesus is the point. Yet, Jesus is so much more than the reason for the season. Either he is everything or nothing! 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20)

Take a look at this image of John the Baptist painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. John looks youthful. (He's sporting a beautiful head of hair.) He is oddly dressed and shown embracing a cross in one hand while pointing beyond himself with the other. John is not the point. And he knows it. His role is to direct our attention toward Jesus and to call us to get ready, to repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

File:St John the baptist - Leonardo Da Vinci.jpg

St. John the Baptist, Leonardo Da Vinci  (1452-1519)

Here below is a detail from Matthias Grünewald's Isenheim Alterpiece. Look at that index finger. Try pointing like that for a moment. Seriously, try it. It's no casual gesture. Feel it. It takes stamina to persist. 

detail of the Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald, (c. 1470-1528)

In the larger context of the altarpiece, what this figure of John the baptist is pointing toward is Christ being crucified on the cross. The inscription above John's bent arm is Illum oportet crescere me autem minui "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Gospel of John 3:30)

By now you are well aware that we are hip deep in the season of Advent. During this brief season we watch, wait, hope, and prepare for Christ's coming in many and various ways. The point, Jesus, wishes to come into our lives. . . not to be a knickknack on the side-table, but to be the central life-giving power in our midst. The Kingdom of heaven has come near. God is already taking the initiative to accomplish our salvation, to prepare our hearts, and fill us with hope in the midst of despair and all that seems to confound our best efforts.

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Second Sunday of Advent
December 8, 2013

Prayer of the Day
Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son. 
By his coming nurture our growth as people of repentance and peace; 
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, 
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, 
one God, now and forever.  Amen

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12

Extra points!  (Not really) For which reading Sunday is this image an illustration? 

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