Along came Jonah

Readings: Psalm 90; Isaiah 1:24-31; Luke 11:29-32

[One of the reasons we read the same Advent passages every three years is to give us a chance to give them more than a cursory glance – and to remember that what was true of human nature two thousand years ago is still true today. Jesus isn’t speaking only to his contemporaries; he is speaking to us, to our generation. So it is to us that the sign of Jonah is given.]

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.” Luke 11:29-30 NRSV

Nineveh was a whole city of the bad part of town: dodgy, dangerous, difficult to navigate for strangers and natives alike. Swindlers, crooks, and con artists were on every street corner, taking advantage of anyone who came their way. It was to this city that God sent Jonah, a prophet who wanted to be sent anywhere else. He preached “repent or die!” with a vengeance. To everyone’s surprise, repent they did. They turned away from the life that brought them only death and began a new life that honored God. If that wasn’t a miracle, what else could be?

Every city has its dark corners, as does every human heart. Flashy special effects that claim to be miracles but are really just entertainment can’t make much of an impression in these dark places. A true miracle is required: someone who loves this world so much that a prophet arrives, the living sign of God’s love and concern.

Just such a person came into the world, and is present in ours even today. Miraculous.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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