by Sally Howard
This Advent in particular, I have been drawn to the figure of John the Baptist. That’s surprising to me because he’s not my favorite character of the Bible. I am usually happy to get past him and on to the annunciation of God’s incredible love story, of utter identification with us and our vulnerability, in the coming of baby Jesus.
John the Baptist is just so out there — wearing camel hair and eating locusts — so incongruous with my cultural norms and expectations as to be almost absurd. And he always seemed dour. In my childhood he was presented as the bearer of as much bad news as good news, as if God wanted us to feel guilty first before the joys could begin.
Yet this year, I hear and see this figure differently. Perhaps there is a sense of the absurd that resonates with some of my feelings in this post-election wilderness. But there is also hope. Because in this story, the incongruous is an expression of God’s Spirit, who sometimes disrupts our usual way of being and thinking, but always for the purpose of giving us more life, more joy, more freedom, and connecting us more deeply to love.
This same Spirit brooded over the welter and waste of creation, and hovers over the messiness of our lives, re-creating order out of chaos and transforming death into life. John the Baptist is a voice of holy absurdity, crying out beyond the reach of empire powers that crushed and scorned honor and truth, to remind us to make room for the love that will bloom.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote of Advent:
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There’d have been no room for the child.
I end with this prayer from Romans: May the God of unchangeable power and eternal light fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
During the Season of Advent, we will offer daily meditations from All Saints Church. Today’s is written by Sally Howard, our Associate for Pastoral Care.