John 1:19-28 and 6-8.
Probably the most obvious thing I could say is that Christmas is only two weeks away! Christmas parties with friends and co-workers, holiday music on the radio, commercials on nearly all programming—it’s everywhere!
But what is not so obvious is what the spotlight should be on. There are lots of candidates:
- The joyful smiles of little children enjoying the magic of colored blinking lights on a decorated tree
- The smell of evergreen in Christmas wreathes
- The pleasures of egg nog, pecan pie, chocolate fudge, rice krispy treats, and a ginormous country ham!
- Perhaps a few days off from work, travel to see family or friends, or maybe a trip to warmer climes!
However, for not a few of us, there are other memories:
- The loss of a family member
- Loneliness of an empty table or bed
- The absence of family and friends who are estranged
- Loved ones living and working in far away places
And so our memories and our emotions and all too often, our wallets and our leisure time, can get caught up in the frenzy and the craziness of this special and yet, frantic season. Is there a word in the stories of John the Baptist (JB, I call him!) from gospel of John for us?
It has always struck me odd that JB figures so prominently in the texts leading up the Jesus birth. First, there is the chronology of it all. JB is only a few months older than Jesus. Both men are in their 30’s. We have long passed up cute baby stories.
Second, the stories of Jesus birth are so serene and pastoral. Mary and Joseph huddled in a barn with the sweet smell of hay on a cold winter’s night. While the stories of JB are in the blinding heat of the Judean desert at it meets the muddy banks of the Jordan. It is quite a contrast.
What gives here? When it came time to teach the story of Jesus, why did the church rearrange all of this and start with JB and then get to the Christmas stories?
Is there something about JB’s resolute relinquishment of his own identity and agenda that speaks powerfully to our quest for a healthy focus at this time of the year?
We will find out Sunday!