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December 5, 2017 - What do we see? What do we hear?

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Scripture Readings

In 1980, CNN started the first ever 24-hour newscast. Back then, people were skeptical, and the network’s ratings showed it. Who needed news 24 hours a day? Wasn’t the nightly network newscast coupled with a local newscast and maybe a newspaper enough for the average American? Apparently not as many other 24-hour news networks followed and, over time, gained in popularity.

Decades later, the cell phone and, more importantly, the “smart” phone arrived. With the latter in our pockets and purses, our days are regularly interrupted by alerts for breaking news. And most of that news is not good. An earthquake here. A mass shooting there. Another missile launch.

We must surely be the most informed people who ever lived on the face of the planet. We know about events happening in places all over the world almost as soon as they occur. But what does all that “knowledge” of the world enable us to see and to hear and what does it obscure from our eyes and ears?

To be sure, the world that we come to know via the 24-hour news cycle is one filled with violence, corruption, war, crime, and so forth. It is a dark world. We all know the old broadcast journalism adage—if it bleeds, it leads. So, it remains today. Headlines and stories that invite fear in response draw readership and viewership. And studies show, the more we watch, the darker our view of the world and of our fellow human beings.

In the Luke text for today, Jesus turns to the disciples and says they (and anyone else like them) who have seen what they have seen and heard what they have heard are blessed. They have seen miracles of healing and the casting out of demons. They have witnessed Jesus’ forgiving grace. They have heard his teaching on loving even the enemy. Indeed, they have seen and heard what many kings and even prophets could not.

What about us? What have we seen? What have we heard?

Have we seen the acts of mercy and grace that God is doing in our world every day? Or, like the kings and prophets that Jesus refers to, are we blind to God’s kingdom because we are so distracted by all the bad news that comes at us each day?

What if, in this season of Advent in which we wait upon the coming of our Lord, we actively reduced the access that the 24-hour news cycle has to us each day? What if, during this season, we refused to internalize all of the dark messages about our world and our fellow human beings that media outlets push to our devices and seek to impose upon our minds? Would that make it easier for us to see the light that Advent promises? Would that give us clearer eyes to see and sharper ears to hear the promise of God-with-us even now? I think it might. May it be so.

- Sue Trollinger