Luke 1: 14-17 NRS
14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
If it’s not obvious, these are the lyrics to John the Baptist’s song in Godspell, and they and the tune are absolutely stuck in my head right now. But what better mantra for Advent? Advent is all about “coming,” and who better than John the Baptist to call us all to awareness as to what- and who- is coming? And what our role is in the drama of life?
For many, John the Baptist comes across as, well, a little weird: living in the desert, eating locusts, dressing in animal hides, etc. Yet for all his eccentricities he exemplifies the qualities we all need for any true reform or authentic transformation of either ourselves or the institutions of which we are a part. John may have been more counter-cultural than we are willing to sustain, but what he did, by going into the desert and listening long and self-forgetfully to God’s voice, was to get himself out of the way. He realized he had to decrease so Jesus could increase. In other words, he had to set aside his ego and empty himself, as he so brilliantly states: “He must grow bigger, I must grow smaller.”
What do I have to do this Advent to “prepare the way of the Lord”? How do I reign in my ego and empty myself so that I grow smaller and God’s Kingdom grows bigger? One thing I know for sure: if I haven’t been working on it for a long time it’s not going to happen in any appreciable way this Advent. John had to have spent a lifetime getting himself to the point where not only could he let go of his ego and his message but also his life! I can do no less than at least make the effort.
This Advent, my prayer is to be at least a little counter-cultural, more like John, and intentionally place myself in the desert. Perhaps then I can become a little less the paragon of egoism and frantic consumerism so valued by our culture and a little more the one out there making straight a highway for our God.