Advent Reader -- Day 18
When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John." They said to her, "There is no one among your relatives who has that name." Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him. And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel. (Luke 1:57-66, 80) ----------
He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God's salvation.'" (Luke 3:3-6)
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning the light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, "This is the one I spoke about when I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'") (John 1:6-9, 15)
A king was on his way. And maybe they might have missed him, the king who would fulfill Old Testament prophecy and become the subject of the New Testament.
So, John is the bridge, the threshold between what had been and what was about to be. He is the precursor, the forerunner, the appointed messenger, carrying the promise that centuries of waiting and preparing and anticipating were about to come to a great and glorious end. In John, the prophecies began to be fulfilled. And a few people understood it, the early adopters, those quick to catch on. And these, his own disciples, John pointed to Jesus, the one whose sandal he was unfit to tie.
As great as the teaching of John the Baptist was, it had nothing on Jesus' teaching. And as many of Torah's promises John fulfilled, Jesus was the fulfillment of Torah itself.
John knew this very well. He knew his role, and he stuck to it with an amazing clarity of purpose.
As his disciples did, before they became disciples of Jesus, we can learn from John. We can learn that preparation for the Messiah (then as now) requires a conversion and a transformation in our own hearts and minds. We learn that the focus is not to be on ourselves, on anything that we have done or hope to do, not even if it is for God.
No, our job is to point all men to behold Jesus, to decrease as he increases and to find our greatness in allowing our story to be subsumed in his.
Holy Father, your grace humbles without degrading me and elevates without inflating me. You offer me great dignity and worth, but without you I am nothing and have nothing. I am grateful that you have given me the astounding invitation to participate in something that extends so far beyond me, though I really have little to offer. I can only revel in your kindness, grace and compassion. I fully acknowledge that you can very well accomplish your intentions without me, and yet you invite me to participate in what will last forever. I ask for a growing clarity about your unique purposes for my life, so that I can live into those purposes by your grace and become the person you created me to be, accomplishing the works you have prepared beforehand for me. In your Son's precious name I pray. Amen.