Wednesday, December 12, 2012
By the time Jesus showed up for baptism, more than mere curiosity was driving people to the Jordan River where John the Baptist was doing his preaching and baptizing. John was a wilderness guy and it was from the edge of the wilderness that he preached so anyone who heard him had to leave the populated areas like Jerusalem or other villages and make the day trip to his ministry place. By the time Jesus was baptized, folks were talking about this wilderness preacher who fit the mold of an ancient prophet. Those who made the journey did so more with intentionality than curiosity. Those who were going knew what to expect; yet, their need drove them out there, nonetheless.
Of course, what they heard was a word telling them they needed to make some changes in their lives. There is no way to hear John the Baptist preach about repentance and come to any other conclusion. Those in need of repentance are not those who have their spiritual house in order. Those in need of repentance are not those who are walking in step with the will and purpose of God. Instead, those in need of repentance are those who are walking in a way that speaks of disobedience to God. So, those who went to hear John heard this message about making inner change which would result in getting ready for the One who is coming from God. John was saying, "There is something wrong with you and you better get it straightened out before it is too late!" Still, folks went to the Jordan to hear and to respond.
When we get serious about what John was preaching, we begin to understand how his message is calling us to get ready for the Christ whose birth we are preparing to celebrate. The preparation we are called to make is not about doing the things called for by our secular culture, but by doing the hard work of examining our heart to see what needs to be done in order for us to be in the presence of the Holy One. It may not be what we want to hear in these days, but hearing and responding is the only way to truly make ourselves ready to go the manger of Bethlehem. Otherwise, it will be a wasted trip.