My homiletics professor told me the most profound truth about Scripture I have ever learned: “If it happened back then, it’s happening today.”
Meaning that the preacher’s task is to find and name the ways God is working among us right now that reveal the power and truth of God’s Word in our sacred texts. Since we as Christians believe that “it happened back then,” we are challenged to proclaim the ways it is “happening today.”
Good preachers break open the word for their particular community, gathered in this time and place, to reveal what God is calling them to be and to do. Good poets are sometimes called to do the same.
Today’s readings are a call and response from prophet to savior. How will we know when God’s time has come? Isaiah responds with poetry:
The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
When John the Baptist sends his disciples to learn if Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, Jesus responds with Isaiah’s own prophecy:
“Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear,
the dead are raised,
and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
So our challenge on this Advent Sunday is to notice and name the places where Christ is acting in our world today – making the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean, the deaf hear, and the dead raised.
The poem I have to offer you today does precisely this. We find Christ in the margins: the homeless, the hungry, the hurting. You will never look at the street person near your grocery store the same way after reading Marie Howe’s The Star Market:
Jesus must have been a saint, I said to myself, looking for my lost car
in the parking lot later, stumbling among the people who would have
been lowered into rooms by ropes…