Two millennia before television, he provided an interesting afternoon’s entertainment. His audiences ranged from the curious to the zealous. He was a curiosity himself…down by the river, dressed in camel skin, living on locusts, crying to the heavens: Repent. Repent. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Seen through contemporary, secular eyes, John was anything but the ideal next door neighbor. You might say he was the original “Jesus freak”… definitely not fit for polite society. He dressed funny. He talked funny. He was noisy and he drew crowds. But he was absolutely the right person in the right place at the right time. God wanted to shake things up. He needed a messenger to call his people to repentance… to proclaim the coming of Christ. He still does. This Advent, he needs all of us to proclaim him… to cry-out in word and deed: Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
We have come a long way from the banks of the Jordan. When was the last time you proclaimed Jesus to friends, neighbors…even to your own family? In fact if our lives were the only testament available, would anyone even know that Christ had ever lived, had died for us, is risen and will come again? On earth, the Baptist never lived to see the rest of this story. But we have. We’ve been raised on it. We study scripture. We worship together in song and in prayer. We meet regularly in Christian fellowship.
But then a very strange thing happens. We slip out the church door and back into the secular mainstream. And from Sunday to Sunday, there’s seldom, if ever, a public word of Jesus on our lips. Chances are we’ll never be called to wrap ourselves in camel skins and live on locusts. But we are called to proclaim Jesus, to build his kingdom, to witness his love. We have been told specifically that if we do not proclaim him… if we are too timid, too politically correct to witness his love… if we actively or passively deny Christ, his Father will deny us.
So what do we take away from this Advent gospel? A play-it-safe Christian is hardly a Christian at all. Start by putting Christ at the center of your day. Don’t keep that your secret. Share him. Wishing: “God bless you.” rather than “Good luck.” is a very small start. Better yet, combine that acclamation with reflexive acts of kindness. Feeling braver? Try greeting good news, whatever the source, with: “Thank you, Jesus.” Dining out? Say a simple grace before meals. Don’t be ostentatious. But don’t be surreptitious either. “Thank you, Lord, for this meal and for all the blessings of this day.” From the heart, that will do just fine. With practice, go further. Seek out fellow Christians among the folks you see each day. Tell them of your faith journey. Ask them to share theirs. Don’t be shy. Christ is with you.
Finally, let’s take a tip from the prophet Isaiah… starting today: Prepare ye the way of the Lord. As lyrics in Handel’s “Messiah” the words are lovely. The sentiment is soaring. But these words are much more than poetry. They are the best, most practical advice we’ll ever get. They call us to follow Christ by emulating John… the patron saint of Advent. Reflect and repent. But don’t keep Christ a secret. Proclaim him. Keep Jesus on your lips as well as in your heart. This Advent, go beyond your good intentions. This time, make it real. This time, proclaim him: Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
The Reverend David Sellery, Episcopal Priest, Author, and Coach. Fr. Sellery presently serves as Priest-in-Charge, St. John’s Salisbury, CT. Fr. Sellery has excelled at using new media to increase outreach beyond the Church doors via his website, blog posts, and podcasts.
“Brueghel Pieter the Younger John The Baptist Praching” by Pieter Brueghel the Younger – Art Renewal Center – description. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons