Today’s lectionary message from John 1 continues to emphasize John the Baptist’s unusual role. The sense is that John is proclaiming an attention-demanding message as a prelude or preparation for whom he describes as the true Messiah (i.e., Jesus). John the Baptist’s exuberant announcement of Jesus aligns splendidly with the Advent theme of joy.
We may never know for sure just how much of an impact John had on the Judaism of his day. Nonetheless, there was something significant in John’s message and methods because the Bible suggests that John was a public sensation, a messenger of God whose form of baptism and repentance attracted people from all levels of Jewish society. On the one hand, John is tied to Jesus from before his birth, such as when Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin, visited her relative and the two soon-to-be mothers spoke prophetically about their unborn boys. On the other hand, the biblical story downplays John role when it has him saying “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his [i.e., Jesus’] sandal” (John 1:27b).
John is described as someone testifying about the light (i.e., the truth—Jesus). This is an interesting way to assign John a purpose. John may have cried out from the wilderness long ago, but who does so today? Many people speak and write about God, Jesus, and all things spiritual and religious. The light of truth is still worth proclaiming from many disparate sources. Moreover, people of faith in the here-and-now have just as much to right and responsibility to share God’s message as did the ancient apostles. Sure, Jesus walked the earth in a particular time and place, yet the Lord’s legacy remains active as God followers continue to proclaim spiritual vitality.
Ever how flattering was John the Baptist’s announcement of Jesus, people today still have something worth shouting about. Whether yesterday, today or tomorrow, the emphasis need not be on the messengers of God’s truth as much as it should be on the message, the underlying principles. Sometimes it is helpful when an attention-getting messenger leverages an otherwise unnoticed or unattractive message. Even so, principles trump personalities every time, lest people slouch into idolatry (one of humanity’s more common traps).
If nothing else, John’s interesting role alongside Jesus reminds us of our potential partnership with God. Just as with John, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a sensational personality but the message must remain greater than the messenger. Finally, there’s nothing like the joy people of faith possess as they connect with and share God’s love and truth. Whatever sources illuminate your spiritual journey, continue to draw close to God and elevate your joy and wellbeing.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey