advent lettering

O Come All Ye Faithful

John the Baptist

Today's Reading

John 1:19-34

Maybe it's your brother or sister. Maybe a parent or a friend. Maybe it's you.

But we all have that person in our lives who will tell us with total conviction that something great is going to happen. It could be the super fan of a sports team who is convinced that “this is the year,” despite all the evidence to the contrary. Or maybe she discovered the newest oil or superfood to cure all the ailments we face daily. Or that person who found a book that changed his life and can change yours too. We all know these people.

The theme that unites them is a belief that they have discovered an unknown truth and they cannot keep it silent. They are compelled to share it. It is as if silence will destroy a part of them. So they tell others. They tweet, write blogs, text, call, interrupt, and at times even stand on furniture to have their messages heard.

Welcome to the world of John the Baptist, someone who cannot help but talk about his conviction.

We first heard about John when Zechariah, his dad, encountered the angel who told him to start preparing a baby’s room, and we first discovered his role when Elizabeth, his mom, met up with Mary, and John leaped for joy, even while he was still in the womb.

Now we see his full ministry, preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. As John declared to those who questioned him, he was, as Isaiah put it, “the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (Jn. 1:23)

And John was no small preacher. He brought in crowds to hear his sermons and flocks of people to repent and be baptized. John was a big deal, so much so that the authorities in Jerusalem sent investigators to determine his motive and message. In the midst of all of this hoopla and attention, John didn’t change his message.

Have you ever thought about what compelled him to stick with his message? John hadn’t yet been told that Jesus was the Messiah. He had seen little evidence to tell him that anything would change. In fact, any clear thinking individual would have told John that it was pointless to proclaim anything because the Romans were clearly in charge, as were the Herodians and the Pharisees. Life wasn’t about to change, so tell people to get used to it.

Yet he remained singularly focused, telling people, “This year is different so get ready!”

With all that in mind, can you imagine what he must have felt when he saw Jesus approaching him? Was it relief? Surprise? Wanting to tell people “I told you so!”?

I think that it was a sense of fulfillment.

John had, quite literally, waited on the Lord, and the Lord showed up. According to Matthew, John even tried to redirect the Lord when Jesus came to be baptized, but Jesus insisted that John continue on his mission. As he came up from the water, God broke through the silence and declared to all of those gathered the same message in essence that John had been sharing, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:13-17)

As we think about John the Baptist and his witness during this Advent season, two ideas come to mind.

First, do we share the same conviction that he had? In looking to December 25, are we convinced that the celebration of Jesus’ birth is just a reminder of his second coming? Are we willing to give up everything we own to announce to the world that “this year is different”? If not, then why not?

That brings us to the second idea: do we really believe John’s message? John’s conviction pushed him beyond critics and commentators to continue with the singular statement, “People get ready.” John did this because he knew Jesus was coming. He didn’t hope that Jesus would come or think that it might be possible for Jesus to show up. He knew deep within his bones. He knew that he was born for that one purpose to proclaim a reality that Jesus was really coming.

Do you believe that Jesus is real and will return one day? Or in your heart of hearts, do you sometimes believe that this Christmas story is just a story, some type of nice tradition to carry on with our families?

Search your heart as you prepare for Christmas and ask the Lord to reveal what is really going on inside. And when you discover where your heart lies, heed the message of John. Prepare the way of the Lord, because, people, He is coming!

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