John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
My mother often came to visit me in Louisiana, and we toured every interesting site within a hundred miles. One weekend, I took her to see a college presentation of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
I tried to explain to her before we arrived that this "theater of the absurd" was a different kind of play. There is no plot to speak of. It's not going anywhere; or not in the usual sense. She wouldn't hear a word of it. "Don't tell me anything about it!" She insisted. There should be no spoiler.
It wasn't well done by these college students. They didn't have that critical sense of timing so necessary to humor. Although they enjoyed the wonderful language, they saved the pleasure for themselves. They ripped through the lines so fast the audience missed its subtlety. There was no time to experience the existential anxiety beneath the waiting. There was some gender bending also as Didi was played by a woman.
We left the theater hand in hand. I was weeping silently; despite the poor presentation the play moves me. A post-war baby, I am too familiar with the non-appearance of a missing god. I have suffered the moral injuries of World War II, Vietnam, Watergate, assassinations, Afghanistan and Iraq. Mom, Catholic to the core and not given to morbidity, was saying, "That's the dumbest thing I've ever seen. It didn't make a lick of sense!" I had to laugh; I'd tried to tell her.
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” It's clear by now that Godot is not coming. If he ever existed, Europe's enlightened god disappeared under the senseless, savagery of two world wars.
And yet, because they have pondered neither the manger in Bethlehem nor the cross in Jerusalem, many still expect God to arrive in power and might, shock and awe. John the Baptist wondered what to make of the cousin who was not raising an army to oppose Rome. Nor was he gathering the holy and the pious to reenter the temple with incense and burnt offerings. Jesus appeared as neither king nor priest.
The scriptures do not say the Baptist was satisfied with the word his disciples brought from Jesus,
"Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
But we can assume the Holy Spirit reassured him with Jesus' more personal admonition: "...blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Advent teaches us to wait upon the coming of God without expectation. We can imagine a future but not the future; more often than we like to admit we are surprised by events. Everybody knows the blind do not regain their sight, the lame cannot walk and leprosy has no cure, but
What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
...God has prepared for those who love him:
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.