Originally posted December 2, 2011, at Faith in Community. Republished with permission of the author.
Where does this John the Baptist come from anyway?
I end up preaching John the Baptist every year, because if you’re in a lectionary tradition, like I am, he just shows up. On the second Sunday of Advent. (And on the third Sunday, too, usually.)
And even to people who are used to John the Baptist, because they’ve been coming to church for years, I still feel like I have to explain, a little.
Because if you are anywhere else than in church, he seems a little out of place. Even in some churches, he seems a little out of place, actually.
I was in a different church for the first Sunday in Advent, and they were introducing their Advent theme, during which John the Baptist would not make an appearance.
The theme for the four weeks of Advent would be the Beatitudes, and the main characters would be the usual suspects: Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men.
This makes sense. These are the people we are expecting, waiting for. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise Men fill the story of Christmas. I’m sure there is plenty to learn from them, as well.
He just bursts in
But for me, John the Baptist just bursts in, sort of rudely, without even giving me time to pick up the mess in my house.
There’s not a spot for the Christmas tree yet, though I know where it will go.
John the Baptist bursts in, even more abruptly than usual, because this year we have Mark’s version of the story, where there is no Christmas story, and Jesus and John the Baptist both seem to come out of nowhere.
They are adults already, with no hint of where they came from, or what special credentials they have. They are just here, with words from God on their lips, if we have a mind to listen.
And one of the things they remind us of is that Christmas is just the prologue, just the beginning of the story.
God being a baby is just a glimpse of what is to come. Maybe we want to hang out with the baby Jesus for a long time, maybe we want to make Christmas the whole show, but it’s just the beginning, just the beginning of the gospel, just the beginning of what God will do.
Already, on the second Sunday in Advent, we have this weird guy wearing weird clothes and eating weird food, saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” and it’s a grown man who will come and be baptized.
And people are coming, flocking out to the wilderness to hear him, because they know that their lives aren’t just all sunshine and light the way they are, and they want something to change, they want something to be different.
So, they’re ready for a weird guy wearing weird clothes.
They and we are clueless
Yet — can I say? Like us, they have no idea. They may want change, but they don’t really know what kind of change they want. Some of them want to go back to the old days, when David was king and everything was good. Some of them just want to get Rome off their backs. Some of them want a little less poverty, a little more peace.
While we are waiting, we’re waiting for a baby. But he will grow up fast.
John the Baptist reminds us that Christmas is not the end point, just the beginning.
John the Baptist reminds us that some things have been fulfilled, but that there are some things we are still waiting for.
We are waiting for peace in our hearts, and peace in our world. We are waiting for the new heavens and the new earth. We are waiting for the dead to rise. We are waiting for bread. Some things have been fulfilled, and for some things we still wait.
Waiting is good
And you know, though this waiting is hard (all waiting is hard), it is good, I think. I don’t know if this is exactly what Peter has in mind, but one reason I think the waiting is good is because we think we know what is coming, and really, we have no idea.
The future will not be like the past, and the good old days will not return, because God is doing a new thing.
God is doing a new thing in the world, and God is doing a new thing in us.
And God is saying, “It will not be what you expect. But it will be good. Trust me. Be patient with me. Because after all, I am being patient with you.”
Find a link to Diane Roth’s blog Faith in Community at Lutheran Blogs.