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Imagining the Lectionary: what do I hear and see? (Advent 3A)

Reflection accompanying image Blocked off windows in Cotswolds house

“Go and tell John what you hear and see”  (Matthew 11:4)

This is a house with history. The mellow Cotswold stone leaves no doubt as to what befell this property, the question posed to the casual viewer is why? The most likely explanation is that this an extreme example of the consequences of the infamous window tax, to which the more modern phrase 'daylight robbery' seems singularly apt. Rather than paying up, the owners could choose to reduce their bill by blocking up some of their windows. This would be done in the hope that one day they would be free to unblock them. As the photograph shows only too well, the reality was that for this building and many others like it, that day is still to come. People learned to live with less light and sound, and adapted to greatly restricted views. With the passing of time this situation gradually became normative and the memory of what once had been was lost from mind and recollection; all that remained was the evidence in stone.  What does such a drastic reduction in vision, sight and sound do spiritually to our expectation and awareness?  When Jesus responds to the question "are you the one?" he does so by telling John the Baptist's disciples to go and tell John what they see and hear. Although he was locked up and shut away out of sight and sound in Herod's prison, John's expectation of God's action was undimmed and at fever pitch. The question was what would such action look like? And how different would these sights and sounds be to the one's John had anticipated from his point of view? In what ways was his vision and hearing compromised or modified? What windows onto God were blocked off or tinted in his perception?  So as he speaks to the crowds Jesus calls into question the expectation and awareness of these people who had also flocked to see and hear John in the wilderness.

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