My father delighted in drama. He was an avid story-teller who knew how to create suspense. He masterfully drew listeners to the precipice of a story’s climax. He was often called upon to speak publicly, especially at celebratory or ceremonial occasions. With carefully chosen words, he lent gravity and significance to every proceeding, no matter how small or common. The natural drama that surrounds the holiday season especially primed my father’s pump.
Christmas Eve brought convergence to my father’s love of suspense. Before bed, we set out chocolate pie for Santa. Then Daddy would pull out his giant reel-to-reel recorder and conduct interviews with my sisters and me. With a news reporter’s demeanor, he would conduct his man-on-the-street interview, probing our expectations for the day ahead. As we prepared for bed, he scanned across oceans of static on his transistor radio for reports from NORAD about an unidentified inbound object over the Bering Sea. We were never sure which was imminent – Santa Claus or nuclear holocaust? Every detail of the evening was calculated to create suspense by asking the same question. “When we wake in the morning, if we wake, will we encounter wonder or disappointment?”
My father knew this was never a settled question for me. He knew that sometime in the night, I would wake and slip, as noiselessly as an eight year-old can, into the living room where all things Christmas were contained. He knew I would investigate the pie plate then the wing-back chair which was the designated landing spot for the evidence of my goodness in the preceding year. The pie plate looked like a crime scene and in the chair were many good things, but not every good thing. Something was always missing. The big item on my list – that something more — was never there. Even as he slept, my father created suspense.
In the morning, after Santa’s gifts were examined and family gifts were exchanged, just as my mother was getting up to begin lunch preparations, my father would notice something out of place, stuck in an unused corner or fallen behind some furniture. With great fanfare and musings of “what is this” and “where did that come from,” he produced ‘something more.’
Christmas is often a season which leaves us looking for something more. Our expectations are high, but our celebrations rarely deliver everything we seek. And even when we take to heart Linus’ words to Charlie Brown that Christmas is about the birth of a Savior, we are left wondering what type of Savior He is. Is He a mere teacher, who increased the demands of the law from mere outward conformity, to the perfect obedience of heart, mind, soul and strength? Is He a mere example, come to demonstrate to us how to love and sacrifice for one another? Is He a revolutionary who incites us to throw off convention and tradition? Or should we look for something more?
The men of Jesus’ day were asking these same questions. As the popularity of John the Baptist grew, a delegation of religious leaders questioned him about his identity. While they were busy comparing John with their own expectations, John provoked them to look for something more — more than a political and religious radical, but one who was God and Man, the Coming King of Kings, and the Lamb of God who takes away sin. John pointed them not to one who could teach them about deliverance, but who alone could deliver them. What kind of Savior are you looking for?
The Heidelberg Catechism, a time-tested set of questions and answers designed to teach the basics of the Christian faith, prepares us to ask this question. By pointing out saviors who can’t save, it asks.
Q15. What manner of mediator and redeemer then must we seek? A: One who is a true and sinless man, and yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is at the same time true God.
Join us this Sunday, November 24 as we examine John 1:19-34 and consider what type of Savior we are seeking and to what we are pointing others. We meet on the square in Pottsville, right next to historic Potts’ Inn at 10:45 am for worship. Get directions here or contact us for more info. We look forward to seeing you.