Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent XII

From the very beginning of the John the Baptist narrative, the plan of God is clear.  Actually, the divine plan was obvious long before the birth of John.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah spoke of the one who was to come as the "voice crying out in the wilderness."    The gospel writers made the connection between what this ancient prophet wrote and what they saw in the life of John.   And then there is the birth story.  Like Abraham and Sarah, John's parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah were getting on in years.  They had given up on having a child.  However, it was Gabriel who showed up in the Temple telling Zechariah he would have a son and that "he will be great in the sight of the Lord"  and that he will go "With the spirit and power of Elijah..."  (Luke 1:13ff)  Later after his birth Zechariah would speak of his newborn son as the one who  would go before the Lord to prepare His ways. (Luke 1:76)
This child, born in a miraculous way, has a powerful role to play in the story of Jesus.  It is no wonder the gatherers of lectionary materials give him such a visible and strategic place in the unfolding story of the One who came to save us all.  None of us should object to him taking the spotlight for a moment for he is the one called by God to help folks like those ancient Hebrews as well as each of us as we look to see what is really in our hearts.  Always there is preparation of the heart to be done when Jesus stands before us.  John's message of repentance is an important one for us to hear and to take to heart.

John the Baptist is the voice of repentance crying out in the wilderness. A wilderness is a place empty of those things which sustain life.  This secular culture in which we are so immersed is like a wilderness for it is empty of what is necessary to give and sustain life.  It promises something other than emptiness, but it will always be an unkept promise.  The voice crying out in the wilderness is every bit as important today as it was when John was washing sinners in the Jordan River.

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