Thursday, December 8, 2011

One who is among you John 1:6-8, 19-28

This advent I've been impressed by the role of John the Baptist in ways that I haven't been before. John's preaching has always impressed me. Listen to John's clarion call in Luke and Matthew to repent, as in Matthew 3:2, repent μετανοειτε rings out over the centuries. John's issued an order that jars and calling us back to God and away from all the lesser things we might think are so important.

Reading about the Baptist in Mark and John this Advent I'm struck not by the sharp call to repent, but by John's work making the way ready for Jesus. I've overlooked this part of John's ministry. Maybe it's not so jaring as the call the repent or so noticable. Or maybe I just need to hear John's call to repent all the more myself. Whatever the reason Johns of preparation is clear to see this year.

John was a visible witness to God in the world and all the same he knew that he was to fade away as Jesus came to the fore. The way the writer of John's Gospel tells the story Jesus was there as John preached and baptized. The religious folk came to the baptizer with intense inquiries about who he was in John 1:19. The Baptizer made it clear that he wasn't the Messiah John 1:20 but that opened up numerous other possibilites like Elijah or another prophet in John 1:21-22.

The crowd was focussed in on John and at the moment when they keyed in on him he made clear who he was, he was the voice making the way ready John 1:23-25. The surprise comes as he says,

“I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” John 1:26-28 NRSV.
John's work was ending in the moment when it was just getting off the ground. John would build no great temple to himself or for his followers. John was there to point the way and to get out of the way. Jesus was there the Good News was at hand. The surpise is that He was there, probably on the edge of the crowd and no one cuould see him. May this wonder of the incarnation, of Jesus unseen presence fill us with hope and joy and call us to repentence this Advent and Christmas.
Pax, John

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