In this Advent season we are preparing ourselves, our families, our Church, and the world for the coming of the Messiah. The lectionary Gospel lesson this week provides another story about preparation. John the Baptist at the height of his ministry baptizes Jesus, but this reading is about what comes before. It is about laying the ground work for that moment. Preparation is something we all do, with varying degrees of success. We make plans, consult experts, set aside resources to cover costs, share our dreams with people close to us, enlist help, etc. John’s story is kind of like that, and kind of not like that. It starts with a list of people. Frequently we skip over the boring lists of people who show up in Scripture. As far as those lists go, at least this one isn’t too long. Keep in mind as you read this list that the people were expecting a Messiah who would be both their religious and civic leader, a righteous warrior who would drive out the Roman occupation and return them to a theocratic monarchy. Luke is writing, looking back on this desire, knowing the ways that Jesus does not meet expectations. And so, his telling of the story of John begins with a list of rulers, both civic and religious, Roman and Jewish. Into this powerhouse catalog of leadership a man, born to a somewhat obscure old priest and his wife, comes to prepare the way of the Lord. His preparation does not include cozying up to power, enlisting the assistance of the religious leadership, gathering physical resources, or raising an army of zealots. Instead John preaches about repentance and forgiveness. He demands a radical rethinking (‘repent’ here is the word that means ‘change of mind’) that will prepare the people for the coming Messiah by reorienting their lives toward God.
John prepares the way for Jesus. Jesus doesn’t come from the powerful folks in that list. Jesus doesn’t overthrow the rulers on that list, at least not in the expected way. The preparation for the unexpected Messiah comes in unexpected ways. As we go through our routines getting ready for Christmas, take a moment to slow down and lay the ground work, repent and seek forgiveness, and reorient yourself to God.
Peace and Grace
PS – Upon recommendation I have added a link to the listing of the Scripture lesson at the top. If you click on it, it should take your web browser to a place to read the lesson.