The Baptist is Back

The Baptist is Back!

Striding into our worship. Cutting as strange a figure as ever he did. Walking in from the wilderness to say to us ? ?Prepare, you, yes you, prepare the way of the Lord?.

Who will heed the baptist?s cry in Advent this year?

A call to get ready. A cry that was never far from the lips of the prophets. A proclamation of change.

The voice crying in the wilderness. Crying out for people to come back home to God. Crying out for people to build a world that is better than the one we live in. A lone voice looking for others to join in the chorus. A solitary figure looking for others who share the vision of a new kind of kingdom based on the reign of a new kind of king.

John the Baptist. He is an odd figure, though he has never lost his relevance. He proclaims that Jesus is coming. And never forget that John was going about preaching and proclaiming all his stuff as an adult. And that he was of a similar age to his cousin Jesus ? just a few months older in fact. He never once said ? ?Get ready, Christmas is on its way?. Nor did he cry ? ?Get ready, prepare a way to Bethlehem?. He tells us nothing about babes in mangers, nor shepherds, nor kings nor the ox nor the ass. Some of these stories had not even been thought up when John was preaching. No, get ready he says ? get ready for the coming king.

No wonder Advent is tinsel free here. John?s message has nothing of Bethlehem about it. It has passion, prayer and politics but none of the Christmas trappings that we might hope for.

Get ready for the coming king, he shouted around the waste places of Jerusalem. And he shouts it ever louder year after year.

He shouts it to you today.

For it seems as though the world has still not heard him. Still not readied itself, steadied itself, made itself set for what is coming our way.

His passion is obvious. He strikes a wild note in a world which would often prefer bland conformity. This is a man who will not be ignored. His passion is rampant and rude. Tortured and turbulent. Raving and reckless.

He will not be ignored.

Yet he is a praying man too. So much about prayer is hope. Hope that is inspired by potential. Hope that is tempered by truth. John the Baptizer shouts his prayers from the mountaintops and yells them through the valleys.

That this world might be fit for the coming king.

And his politics? Did I slip in something about politics a minute ago? Was I suggesting that John was into politics?

Well, as much or as little as any of the prophets who soared on the winds of change.

John was the first great preacher of liberation in the new era. The first theologian of the poor in Christian times. The first to cry out for justice in the new testament highlands.

Is it easy to hear his cry from the high places of western affluence. Is it easy to hear his cry knowing how many live in valleys of despair, depression and poverty.

For valley shall be lifted up and every hill be turned into a plain. So look out!

So where did he come from? How came he here?

Well, he came from a household which worshipped the Lord. He came from within the religious establishment. In fact, Luke tells us quite a bit about him. Born the son of Zechariah ? one of the priests in the temple. Born into a an observant tradition. A tradition which kept alive the idea that God was in the midst of the people.

Born the Son of a family who sang the songs of justice and freedom.

Never underestimate the effect of singing. You may not be able to preach like John or pray like Paul. But you can sing the songs of freedom even now and keep alive the dream of a kingdom, a new kind of kingdom. Where the weak are cared for and the haughty brought down. Where the mountains are made low and the valleys made high. Where the beloved of God band together to bring the commonwealth of God that little bit closer day by day.

John new these things because his family sang these things. His father sang the Benedictus when he knew that John was coming into the world. And his aunt sang the Magnificat.

Two canticles of freedom. Manifestos for the Kingdom. Songs of Justice. Songs of Joy.

Listen to his father?s song: This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our live.

Think what it would mean for that to be true for you. Freedom. Free to be you. Free to live in a world without oppression. Free to live in a world where God is known. Freedom from persecution for all of God?s people. Freedom to live with dignity as one of God?s chosen ones. Sheltered and loved. Living in light and no more in darkness.

No wonder John turned out the way he did, coming from such a subversive, radical family within the religious tradition of his day.

There are those who will never hear the baptist?s cry. There are those who are deaf to Zechariah?s song. There are those who are deaf to Mary?s Magnificat. There are those who would prefer things to stay just the way they are.

What do you think?

Can you hear the one who cries in the desert places and the mountain places, in the high places and the low places ? Prepare, yes you, prepare the way of the Lord?

Can you hear the singing? Can you hear the people of God?s commonwealth raising their voices? Can you hear the voices of those who yearn for freedom singing the kingdom into being?

Can you hear them & will you join them in singing God?s song?


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