Trying to Ask the Right Questions at Advent

After reading the Old Testament lectionary readings so far in the season of Advent, I realize how difficult it is to ask the right kinds of questions.  For my entire life, I have lived within traditions that have treated prophecy primarily as prediction, at least at the popular level.  The tendency is to think “Wow! How amazing is it that this or that prophet told us about Jesus hundreds of years beforehand?”  It doesn’t take that much to see that these are problematic kinds of questions to ask.  If Isaiah, Jeremiah, or whoever was talking specifically about Jesus, what meaning could their preaching possibly have had for the people living in their own time?  Does this not deny that the message of the Old Testament has any value in and of itself?  Do I really want to think of the entire Old Testament as having something to do with Jesus anyway?  I think some of it I would like to repudiate.  At any rate …

Rather, when I hear the Old Testament prophets read at the time of Advent, I am trying to ask myself the question “What was it about Jesus that caused his earliest followers to see him in this text?  What was it about Jesus that prompted his followers to find him (or at least try to find him) anywhere and everywhere?”  I think by asking myself these questions I can maintain that the Old Testament has a value in and of itself beyond simply predicting the coming of the Messiah.  But, at the same time I still maintain that there was something extraordinarily significant in the life of Jesus, something so significant that his followers saw him in places where being brought up Post-Enlightenment I simply don’t see it (e.g. Matthew 2.23)

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