This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Advent day 11: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

Chuck Neufeld served with Mennonite Voluntary Service for about 25 years. Together with his wife Bonnie, Chuck also served as co-pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Illinois for 19 years. For the past six years, Chuck served as Conference Minister for the Illinois Mennonite Conference. He’s recently retired and moved to North Newton, Kansas. As pictured, he enjoys his daily early morning walk with Teddy. Chuck continues to be active in speaking, retreat resourcing, preaching and making music. Chuck is also an avid woodworker and can’t wait to get his workshop back up and running. 

Read all Advent 2015 reflections. 

Today’s Scripture: Luke 7:18-30 

Ever since I knew I was going to post an Advent meditation for The Mennonite, I’ve been focusing on the story of John the Baptist sending two of his disciples to ask Jesus if he’s the real thing or “if we should expect another.”

This story made me think of my own mental and spiritual tendencies. If I’m honest, I have to admit that I do the same. I, too, at times ask whether Jesus “is the one, or if we should be looking for another.”

It’s not that I desire in any way to turn my back on my Lord and Savior, but I’ll admit that there are times when I struggle with knowing how to make sense of my current situation while at the same time claiming Jesus as the “healer of my every ill.”

As I reflected on my own tendencies over the past several weeks, I did so while imagining myself in prison with John. In cahoots with him, I found myself repeatedly asking the question, “Are you the one, or should I be looking for another?”

So, here’s the deal: I, too, sometimes feel tied up, just like John must have felt. I, too, feel locked up and forgotten, just like John must have felt! I, too, feel like I’ve given everything I have for the purposes of Christ’s kingdom, just as John must have felt. And, just like John, there are times when I’m confused about what value there is to the effort I’ve offered.

As I parked my brain on this story, I found myself increasingly impressed and taken by John’s determination to “catch on” to the full breadth of who Jesus was. Instead of hearing John’s question as a snide remark or a sarcastic challenge, is it not possible to hear his question as an earnest, even if desperate, effort to be reassured of Jesus’ mission and Jesus’ ultimate purpose? Doesn’t it make sense to hear John’s question as an honest plea asking Jesus to reassure him of who he is?

Instead of distancing yourself from John the Baptist, instead of throwing your hands up in despair, and instead of giving up in a spirit of hopelessness, how ‘bout you join John and send your disciples to ask Jesus who he is. Yes, your disciples!

You don’t have any? Really? I’m talking about all those who look to you for direction. All those people who look to you for counsel. All those who consider you a role model.

Yup, like it or not, you have disciples. Think of the word “follow.” Think of Twitter, think of Facebook, and then think again. You probably do have disciples. People who are following you. People who are influenced by you. People who are hoping for direction from you.

As I thought about this story, I thought of how crucially important it is to have the kind of disciples, friends, and followers who can do for you what two of John’s disciples did for him. What I mean is this: When you’ve lost hope, when you no longer know how to access Jesus yourself , and when you find yourself facing questions that threaten your very faith in everything you’ve always treasured, it’s incredibly important to have friends by your side who can access Jesus for you.

If you find yourself in a phase of uncertainty and confusion,  if you no longer know “for sure” if Jesus is who you’ve always believed him to be, and if you’re just in need of reassurance, send the ones by your side who are able to access Jesus when you can’t. Send them and tell them to check with Jesus “for you.”

And here’s my confidence: Jesus will receive your friends (your disciples) and will send a message back to you. The kind of message that will be truly reassuring. AND Jesus will testify to your faith, and your value, and the calling to which you’ve been called.

During this Advent season, rejoice in the coming of Christ. And if you can’t muster such “rejoicing,” ask your disciples/friends to rejoice for you. Just do that and you’ll be fine.

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