“John the Baptist said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the Isaiah the prophet said.” (John 1.23)
Our tall, stately Christmas tree went up yesterday in the sanctuary with no little effort. Things were already looking splendid in there thanks to Molly Watkins and Susan Wilson. The quiet crèche greets us at the main entrance and the unfussy Advent bunting with violet bows festoons the face of our gallery. And let’s not forget the Advent wreath bringing dawning light of revelation at the darkest time.
But people kept asking about the tree. Where was it? The truth is it almost didn’t get up because it’s a demanding, risky task. Were we to hire workers to engineer that multi-person, multi-hour undertaking? Alas, no funds for that in our budget.
But wait, Bob McGee feels about that tree going up like how mother bears feel about their cubs. And his sturdy Advent acolytes Tom Parnon and John Wilson carefully coordinated with Bob, working in tandem to get our tree tall and proud. I walked in there a few times as the work was in progress, worried for their safety. But I felt better as I noticed how these three acted as “spotters” for one another.
Perhaps we associate “spotters” with gymnastics or weightlifting. But John the Baptizer was a “spotter” in his own day. His was a steadying prophetic voice drawing straight, uncompromised lines as the masses curved everything toward themselves, toward their getting to the top of the heap, toward their self-interest.
Think of such a voice and witness as John the Baptizer’s in our own day, rife with degrading molestation and unblinking fabrications, with betrayal and intrigue that would fit right into Herod the Great eager to snuff out baby Jesus like a bad cigar.
How sorely we need prophetic voices willing to speak unvarnished truth without spin, agenda, or self-interest. We need “spotters” in such a time as this, brave people unafraid to survey wreckage on the landscape of our lives, and to sound the alarm, forcing us to notice how eagerly we all compromise ourselves. John’s message of baptism by repentance was not about the fury of self-hate or darkly reveling in how utterly lost people are. No, repentance means a 180 degree shift in the direction from where we are now headed. It is about leaving the circuitous paths of lies and getting on a straight path. Where are those brave voices today?
Last Sunday I said that Advent and Christmas are the answer to the question that implicitly rises within our breasts: why doesn’t somebody do something about the mess we are in? Why doesn’t God act to get us off the dreadful course we’re on?
It’s happening, friends. As we look and hear with eyes and ears of faith, we will see it. No matter how great the dark, God’s light shines and will not be quenched. God shall painfully deliver the way, the truth, and the life. Let us prepare his way!