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In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,
when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea
and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee,
and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region
of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,
the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.
John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:16
by Bill Mallonee
Luke begins his version of the story of Jesus by anchoring it in history; by grounding it in the stuff of flesh & blood. Not fiction, not fancy.
Real history. It is Christianity’s most outlandish claim. Christianity is not mere “spirituality.”
But the claim that God entered human history in the Person & work of Christ? That is the claim that believers are asked to test, to trust in, and participate in.
God becomes vulnerable and personal to each of us. It is quite a claim and yet it is the bedrock of our faith and our hope.
The near-ness of God.
Earthy. Immediate. And Luke anchors it story by story, parable by parable, miracle by miracle in the lives of folks like you & me.
The Gospel of Luke. It’s the Gospel of “John & Jane Doe.”
People ask me about Jesus sometimes. I’m known, fairly far & wide in some circles, as a singer-songwriter who writes about “faith issues.”
People ask me: “How do you know Jesus is there? How do you know Jesus is real? How do you know that all the gospel writers claim about Jesus…is true?”
And for years, most of the answers I’d give people seemed to border on something like an intellectual insult to them or they took as some form of academic pontificating from higher moral ground.
Sure, there’s a place for true scholarship and that branch of theology known as “apologetics.” (Unfortunate label if ever there was one!) But, these days I trend to downplay the canned responses, even when feel tempted to resort to them.
Perhaps our faith is already storm-battered, threadbare.
How to respond?
“Well,” I say, “you can talk to Jesus, just like a Friend. Ask Jesus to “show” himself to you.
And “Yes,” I say, it might be a little scary.”
Ask Jesus hard things like, “Why is the world is such a broken place?”
And, if you get the courage, ask Jesus, “Why am I so broken within myself?”
And, while you’re at it, ask Jesus why everything & everyone hurts.
If Jesus is real, then assume he is a big God. And assume that he isn’t at all offended by your questions, if they originate from an honest heart.
Jesus will answer, I believe.
But then, of course, you have to learn to listen.
But, it’s listening in a different way; much like trying to tune in an old AM station.
With Jesus, you have to be open to picking up his frequencies in a different manner.
Via the texts (Holy Scriptures) we have handed down to us through the centuries, though the promptings or nudges of His Spirit, or through the mouths of his stumbling saints, Jesus speaks. To you. To me.
Listening in such a way is not necessarily “modern man’s” strong card.
In a day and age of disposable info delivered through the barrage social media, it’s no wonder we feel over-whelmed.
Strangely, for all of our full-course dinner of information, we also seem to be life-threateningly under-nourished.
Let us try, asking Jesus’ help & Grace to approach these texts in a different way, with the ears of our spirits more open. Not only on the Sundays of Advent, but perhaps, as time affords, in private moments throughout the Advent & Christmas Season.
Jesus still has much to say; to you, and to me.
Dial in that station.
I believe you will find that even as you reach out to Jesus, that in his Bethlehem-Love, Jesus has already reached out to you.
Bill Mallonee is an Americana artist with 70+ albums, spanning a 20 year career. Paste Music Magazine named him #65 in their prestigious “Top 100 Living Songwriters” poll. He fronted the band Vigilantes of Love from 1991-2001. Bill and his wife, Muriah, live in New Mexico. His work can be found, listened to, and purchased at www.billmalloneemusic.bandcamp.com
Sing it to a tune in the public domain. It’s the third hymn down (the one for the gospel lesson) at