December 16, 2019
Scripture John 1:6–9, 19–28
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
John 1:6-9 NRSV
In scripture, John the Baptist is portrayed as a rough character, something that we conclude from his description in the Gospels. His diet was honey and locusts, and he dressed like someone from the wilderness (Matthew 3:4). Some scholars believe that he came from the desert-dwelling Essene community of Jewish believers. There is more description about him in Gospel of Luke which ties his parents to the worship of the temple through his father and to Mary through John’s mother, Elizabeth, making Jesus and John the Baptist something like second cousins (Luke 1:39-80).
Apart from all of that, John gives us his message directly and unadorned like a prophet of old. John gives it to us “straight on.” He had significant news for the religious authorities, those who observed the law above all else: Do away with self pride and self-directed and self-serving choices. John addressed the people: Repent and make yourselves worthy of God’s chosen Messiah, who is coming.
What does this have to do with Christmas and Advent? Of course, John the Baptist is not in the scene at Bethlehem. He appears later at the start of Jesus’ ministry. And, there he baptizes Jesus, an act that is confirmed in all four Gospels. And, something unmistakably significant happened that day: The Spirit of God descended, like a dove.
What do you and I take away from this? Is there significance for us during Advent? Should we repent like those who surrounded John? With all this hustle and bustle, aren’t we doing enough? Or, is that exactly why we observe Advent, a time of preparation!
God placed John the Baptist into the history of the world and the church. He tells us about God’s judgement and tells it to us “straight,” using unmistakably simple and direct language. Are you and I able truly to listen to his message in this time, or any time, of the year?