Sunday, December 9, 2012
Advent is full of surprises. In the first Sunday gospel reading, it is Jesus coming in the clouds! And, before the surprise is assimilated comes the second Sunday and the shocking presence of John the Baptist. It leaves the surprised and shocked shaking and scratching their heads wondering, "Where is baby Jesus of Bethlehem?" Most folks would figure that a season which gives preparation to Christmas would have at least taken us to the manger by now, but, alas, such is not what happens as the gospel lessons for Advent are given permission to guide our entrance into the season.
There is a sense in which John the Baptist seems completely out of place. He is the wilderness man who washes only once in a while, whose breath smells like dried locust and honey, and who is in real need of a barber chair. No Father would want their daughter to bring him home and introduce him as a future son-in-law. If somehow he had showed up at the manger scene, he would have been a more disruptive presence than those excited men who smelled like wet sheep. And finally, no respectable preacher would ever consider giving him the Sunday morning pulpit for by the time he finished with his ecclesiastical rantings, every pew sitter would be offended to the point of leaving.
It makes us wonder why in the world he shows up every year on the Advent calendar as such an important person. The answer is surely found in reading what each one of the gospels has to say about him. If there is not enough time to read all four, then Luke would be the place to go. This gospel writer not only introduces us to John the Baptist, the preacher of the wilderness, but also gives us the kind of information which enables us to see him as one called by God at a specific time for a specific purpose. He was a true forerunner. He clearly had one purpose and that was to get people ready for Jesus. Maybe he is not such a bad fellow to put on center stage in these days after all.