Third Sunday of Advent: The Story Jesus Lived In

There's a difference between the people with whom we are acquaintances and those we really know well. I think much of that difference comes down to how well we know the story of which their life is a part.

You may have a coworker with whom you interact on a daily basis. They may be pleasant to work with, and you may even consider yourselves friends. However, with most of our coworkers, we don't really know the stories they live in––we don't know what their childhood was like or where their grandparents were from. We may not know if they have siblings, if they've always dealt with addictions, or whether they grew up in the city or in the country. They probably don't know those kinds of things about you either, and that's okay because of the kind of relationship you have as coworkers.

To contrast the difference it makes when we know someone's story, think of another kind of relationship: someone with whom you were close friends as a child, but now have contact with no more often than a couple of times per year. Your interactions with an old friend happen much less often than they do with your coworker, but yet there's a sense in which you still know them significantly because you know their story. You have memories of spending time in their house with their families. You can remember some painful experience they had as well as a time when they were happy. You know whether their story began in poverty or riches. You might even be able to explain some of the course that their life has taken because you know their story so well.

To really know someone well, you would have both sides of the relationships described above: the knowledge of their story plus the continued daily interactions, but I've realized that isn't how we normally think of knowing Jesus. We tend to focus on knowing Jesus in the ways that we would know a coworker. Sure, there are some obvious differences between what it would be like to know the Son of God through daily interactions and what it's like to know the person in the office next to you, but here's my point: if we don't really know another person without knowing the story they live in, neither do we really know Jesus without knowing the story he lived in. Jesus' story is the long and winding story of ancient Israel, and if we don't know that story, we don't have a chance at understanding who he was nor of comprehending many of the things he said and did. Advent is always a reminder of that story.

I recently installed a new game on my phone for my kids to play. It was a Bible app, with narration of different biblical stories and games, puzzles, etc. that the kids enjoy playing. Something caught my attention about it, though, when I looked at it for the first time and noticed the Bible stories that it includes. The first story was about God creating heaven and earth. The second story was about Adam and Eve's sin in the Garden of Eden, and then the next story was...Christmas. There was no Abraham, Moses, David, nor Elijah, even though the New Testament constantly refers to them to attempt to understand and communicate who Jesus was and what he did.

Unfortunately, though, that children's Bible app is characteristic of the way we often think about Jesus. If our theology ultimately skips straight from Eden to Bethlehem, we have an utterly context-less Jesus, and we are bound to either misinterpret or be left scratching our heads at the majority of the New Testament's content.

We began this Advent adventure two weeks ago by focusing on practical methods of waiting on God now, through daily interaction with him in our present lives. Last week, we looked to the future and sought to clarify how we are part of two millennia of followers of Jesus who have waited on his return. This week, we look to the past, seeking to understand the story Jesus lived in by remembering ancient Israel's long waiting for the Messiah to come.


A Prayer for the Day:

O God, you make us glad with the weekly remembrance of the glorious resurrection of your Son our Lord: Give us this day such blessing through our worship of you, that the week to come may be spent in your favor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*

A Prayer for the Week:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.*

Readings for the Week*:

*Prayers are from The Book of Common Prayer and readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary.