Saturday, December 3, 2011
I was really introduced to John the Baptist some years ago by a preacher friend named Russ Elkins. He was a part of a preaching peer group with which I also claimed membership. Once a week we would gather, one of us would preach for the others, and then we would spend some time offering some friendly, but constructive suggestions. Of all the peer groups of which I have been a part over the years of ministry, this one is remembered as one the best. Prior to Russ' sermon dealing with the early Advent text about John the Baptist, I had read about him, but never really met him.
Russ introduced him to me as the kind of guy you would not want your daughter to bring home saying, "Daddy, this is the one." Matter of fact, as Russ portrayed the Baptizer, he would not be welcome in most of our churches. Dressed in camel hair clothing and with locust on his breath, smelling him would likely happen before seeing him. Of course, that voice which loudly sounded the message about repentance would like be a prelude to sight or smell.
As the one called to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus, he preached this message of repentance which at its core declared that something radical had to happen to assure readiness. In John's day, it was baptism. Jews were not baptized. They were already God's people. Only non-Jews who wished to become Jews were required to submit themselves to the water cleansing. So, when a Jew stepped into the Jordan, it represented a radical act. It makes us wonder a bit about our own preparation for the celebration of the coming of Jesus. Would it be characterized as mundane, or radical?