Saturday, December 22

advent 2007

In the TV-addicted culture in which we live, there are occasionally phrases in commercials which assume a life of their own apart from their original message. “Where’s the beef?” and “just do it” pop into mind as catch-phrase contributions to late 20th century pop culture. They now have meaning totally separate from their original Wendy’s and Nike ads. In 1987 LifeCall began running an ad for medical alarm pendants featuring an elderly woman named “Mrs. Fletcher” who lived alone and who had hurt herself and needed help. While originally quite serious, this commercial introduced into our phraseology the now campy phrase: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

In John 5, we are introduced to someone else who couldn’t get up. Jesus is in Jerusalem at the pool of Bethsaida and amidst the multitude of invalids, he focuses on a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked.

“Congregation, arise; congregation, arise; go forth this holy night, show forth the heavenly light . . . ”

But what if we can’t get up? Sometimes, we’re tired. Sometimes, we’re apathetic. Sometimes, we’re grieving. Sometimes, we’ve been pretending to be up. Sometimes, guilt or despair or anger or Satan is holding us down. We may be like the man in John 5 who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

And Jesus asks us the same question: “Do you want to be healed?” We all have to answer that question for ourselves. Do we want to arise and “Go forth this holy night, show forth the heavenly light”? Jesus will not make us. So we pray this Advent season for the desire to arise and show forth the light of the one whose birth we celebrate, the one who saves and redeems and transforms us into witnesses to the grace of God. Pray for help from others. Pray to be the help others need.

When we arise, God can do great things through us.
– Wyc Rountree

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