I love a good murder (a story that is – not actually committing them).
There is nothing better, to my mind, to settling down to a good Midsomer, Sherlock Holmes, Marple or Poirot. Within each of these stories comes the moment when, the detective, needs to abandon observation and confront their suspects in order to get answers.
I was thinking about that as I looked at our Bible passage this week.
John the Baptist had appeared in the wilderness and called people to him. The crowds responded in a big way and the authorities became concerned. The people in power sent some of their number to investigate what was going on. They, detective like, confront their suspect;
They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
(John 1 vs. 21 – 22)
As I read these words, it struck me that the gospel writer presents us with two ways of experiencing God. We are either going to be witnesses or interrogators.
Interrogators demand answers to the “who, what, why and when” questions. They like things that are solid and certain. They want evidence. They look for proof and keep asking until they find it.
As I look back over the past year, I am grateful for the interrogators. They have sought the answers to the questions that the current pandemic has raised.
I have watched the Government briefings with their charts, numbers and statistics. The cold hard facts, if you like. What I have discovered is that knowing the facts does not always help.
I think the biggest challenge with interrogators is, they do not offer what we all need in the circumstances of life, they do not offer hope.
As the Priests and Levites challenge John the Baptist about “who, what, why and when” he points them toward a greater reality. He points them to the hope of the Messiah.
A witness reports what they have seen and experienced. A witness sees a reality that is greater than themselves and their own limited understanding.
So what are you, an interrogator or a witness?
I have surprised myself this year. I discovered that I am more of an interrogator. I want answers, I want things sorted neat and tidy, I like firm clear instructions and set dates! As you can imagine, this year has been a challenge!
I have a sneaky suspicion that there are rather more interrogators than witnesses in this world.
I have really felt a challenge to be more witness than interrogator. Seeing and experiencing what is, in order to point to a reality that is far greater.
In essence, that is what the Nativity invites us all to do.
To come again to the manger and gaze upon the baby who is;
Our God contracted to a span,
Incomprehensibly made Man.
As we see and experience so we, in turn, should point others to this far greater reality.