The word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’
“Happy Holidays!”… It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
It’s December. These are just some of the sayings we may say or hear throughout our day. These phrases are such a common part of our seasonal vernacular we don’t always think about why we say them. We are attempting to give a verbal nod to the uniqueness of this time of year because we subconsciously understand that language is important. This is how we connect with one another and share what’s on our mind, what’s important to us.
I am struck by the Sunday reading for the second week of Advent because it is an example of John intentionally choosing his language to connect with others and share what’s important to him. By using the words of the prophet Isaiah, John spoke something his audience would already know well. He knew these words would immediately connect and mean something to the person who heard them. It’s also interesting to note that though we often read this passage during Advent, John wasn’t saying this in the weeks before Jesus’ birth. Lifting up these words from Isaiah wasn’t a nod to the time of year or holiday season. John shared these words to acknowledge and alert the listeners to what God was about to do through the living Messiah. John was saying, get ready, Jesus’ ministry is about to get real.
I wonder how our relationship with the Advent and Christmas seasons would change if we thought about it in this way. We are not waiting for Jesus to be born. He already was. We are not preparing for Jesus’ life and ministry to change the world. It already has. Rather, our lives and language might be more like John’s, used as an alert for ourselves and others to be aware of the counter-cultural perspective and presence of Christ in our midst, in every moment. This Advent, rather than waiting for Jesus to step in and do what we know Jesus does, let’s join Jesus who is already here and change the world with love, forgiveness, and grace.
Let us pray...
Ever-present God, thank you for the gift of this Advent season that we may consider what it means to live alert to your work in the world and join you in it. Shift our perspectives in the ways we need so that we may see one another as you see us, connect with each other, lifting each other up with our words and actions. Amen.