Prepare Ye the Way
This coming Sunday we meet one of my very favorite biblical figures, John the Baptist. In this second week of Advent, John bursts on the scene from the wilderness, seemingly out of nowhere, and he has a lot to say to the people of Judea. He’s an unexpected, unsettling character, our friend John – certainly not the type of guy that most of us would invite readily to a Christmas cocktail party. For one thing, his sartorial choices – not to mention his dietary preferences – leave much to be desired. For another, his “people skills” certainly could use some work. There is a reason that we don’t see John the Baptist in most Christmas pageants or nativity scenes: he just doesn’t “fit” in the serene tableau of Mary, Joseph, and the Babe in the manger, surrounded by adoring shepherds and lowing cattle. So what is he doing here in Advent?
During Advent we prepare, of course, for the great Feast of the Incarnation, that moment when God entered into human experience at a particular time and place in human history. We delight in readying ourselves for the birth of Jesus with lovely cherished traditions both at home and in church. Yet Advent is not merely a nostalgic celebration of a singular past event. In this season we also reflect on how Christ is being born in our lives here and now. Like the people of first-century Judea, we are called to “prepare the way of the Lord” by clearing the clutter that gets in the way of our relationship with God. Speaking for myself, there is a whole lot of clutter in my life – not just physical “stuff,” but also noise and other distractions that prevent me from really hearing Jesus. Maybe you live with that kind of clutter, too.
For this reason, Advent was originally conceived of as a “little Lent,” a period of intentional reflection and spiritual housecleaning in the run-up to Christmas. Yet as we know, sometimes it is all we can do just to maintain Advent as a distinct season – much less as a time of thoughtful introspection. This is precisely why we need John the Baptist, socially awkward though he may be. Sometimes it takes a loud and jarring voice to get our attention.
Come meet John the Baptist at St. Dunstan’s this Sunday. What he lacks in manners he more than makes up for in passion and conviction. You might just be surprised by what he has to say.