Friday Focus: This Time Make It Real
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"
Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." - Matthew 3: 1-12
Two millennia before television, he provided an interesting afternoon’s entertainment. His audiences ranged from the curious to the zealous. He was a curiosity himself…down by the river, dressed in camel skin, living on locusts, crying to the heavens: Repent. Repent. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Seen through contemporary, secular eyes, John was anything but the ideal next door neighbor. He dressed funny. He talked funny. He was noisy and he drew crowds. You might say he was the original “Jesus-freak.” Today, by most, he’d be judged as unfit for polite society. Better give that guy a very wide berth.
We’ve come a long way from the banks of the Jordan. When was the last time you proclaimed Jesus to friends, neighbors…even your own family? In fact if our lives were the only testament available, would anyone even know that Christ had ever lived, had died for us, is risen and will come again? The Baptist never lived to see the rest of this story. But we have. We’ve been raised on it. We study scripture. We worship together in song and in prayer. We meet regularly in Christian fellowship.
But then a very strange thing happens. We slip out the church door and back into the secular mainstream. And from Sunday to Sunday, there’s seldom, if ever, a public word of Jesus on our lips. Chances are we’ll never be called to wrap ourselves in camel skins and live on locusts. But we are called to proclaim Jesus, to build his kingdom, to witness his love. We have been told specifically that if we do not proclaim him, if we actively or passively deny Christ, his Father will deny us.
So what do we take away from this Advent gospel? A play-it-safe Christian is hardly a Christian at all. Start by putting Christ at the center of your day. Don’t keep that your secret. Share him. Wishing: “God bless you.” rather than “Good luck.” is a very small start. Better yet, combine that acclamation with reflexive acts of kindness. Feeling braver? Try greeting good news, whatever the source, with: “Thank you, Jesus.” Dining out? Say a simple grace before meals. Don’t be ostentatious. But don’t be surreptitious either. “Thank you, Lord, for this meal and all the blessings of this day.” From the heart, that will do just fine. With practice, go further. Seek out fellow Christians among the folks you see each day. Tell them of your faith journey. Ask them to share theirs. Don’t be shy. Christ is with you. Starting today:Prepare ye the way of the Lord. And this time, make it real.
A Reflection for Advent
Many are flooding Facebook and other social media with photos of Nelson Mandela today. We have lost a great man.
Here is a quote from Mr. Mandela that could provide an interesting reflection during this Advent season and beyond. Be that light in the darkness!
deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that
frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who
am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you
not to be? You are a child of God. Your
playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about
shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make
manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s
in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same. As we
are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” –
An Advent Prayer by Henri J. M. Nouwen
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say,
"Come Lord Jesus!"