We try to box it up, to push it away. We know we need to hear it, but we have worked SO HARD to get to a place where we feel like we have things under some semblance of control, that we have found our place in the midst of all the tumult and chaos this life seems to overflow with, continually, that we work hard, very hard, to push that voice out and away.
Yes, the wilderness is sometimes not far enough away for that voice to be sounding, is it?
With John the Baptist, and his dramatic entrance in the Gospel of Mark as the centerpiece of our Advent moment for this coming Sunday, it would be so easy for all of us to hold him and his voice in the wilderness at arms' length. We can observe him at a distance, because we don't live there, do we? It's not where we work or labor, where our children go to school, or where we shop for what we want and need. It's not anywhere near us, is it, that wilderness? At worst, he gets a little too close. We get a whiff of his pungent, desert-dust funk, perhaps his breath hints of bug carapace and honey. No, that's too close...
That wilderness should be somewhere else, and not quite so near. John should be a spectacle to observe and not someone so close we can smell the must of his dew-soaked garment. The word of proclamation shouldn't smell faintly of goats and camels.
It should be cleaner. It should be safer. It should be less challenging. It should not strike so deeply into our souls.
And yet, it does just that. The beginning of the good news is not always a pleasant, easy thing. It does not come calmly or easily into our lives. It breaks over us like a wave. It strikes us in the face like grit borne on a hard, desert wind. It wakes us up in the wee hours of the night and deprives us of sleep. It reminds us that all our hard won "peace of mind" is not anywhere near the peace of God which passes understanding...because it lacks the justice and equity among all people that real and godly peace requires.
This wilderness Gospel, and its herald John, is coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the one who will tell us we are broken, that we are sick, that we lack justice....even as he is the one who mends us, heals us and restores us to a just life. The frightening bit of this wilderness Gospel is two-fold. First, that we need to listen to it, to heed it. The kingdom of God is drawing near!
The second challenge is even greater than the first....It's not just HIS voice we have to listen to as it comes to us from the wastes. We are now needing to find our own wilderness voices. John does not cry out alone. He is inviting us to join the chorus that now proclaims the incoming kingdom of God.
HE is not the messenger today. YOU ARE!
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mark 1:1-8
Find your voice. It is our turn to proclaim his advent!