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Second Sunday of Advent
2 Peter 3, 8-14
Does John the Baptist “fit” in this season of peace, joy, and love: ‘that, awkward, smelly, Advent cousin, who walks out of the desert wearing animal hair, with locusts and wild honey on his breath?”
This is the question of author Barbara Brown Taylor, in her blog: Bread, Not Stone.
Brown Taylor further describes John as “lit light like a bonfire” as he yells to the people: “Wake up!
Turn around! God is doing a new thing!”
John insists to the people that they are “not a part of a civilization of rules and regulations. He urges them to “come clean” while he pours water on them, urging them to stop pretending they are someone else; start over again! John’s baptism bypasses the temple and all its rites.”
In Home By Another Way, Brown Taylor describes the Good News as “…always beginning somewhere in the world, for those with ears to hear and hearts to go wherever they may lead.”
So…where does the Good News begin for each of us? Perhaps we miss the message because God’s messengers come in unexpected ways as one “John the Baptist” arrived for me one day while teaching junior high students. I was a young teacher, trying to find my way to appeal for cooperation from junior high students, who didn’t seem to want to comply! One day, I continually corrected one young man for misbehaving and out of exasperation, denied him of recess that day. All of our previous encounters had also been negative and tense: I did not like him; he did not like me.
He remained in my classroom after I had dismissed the rest of the class for recess. One boy, on his way to recess, stopped me in the hallway to inform me that I had punished the wrong student and gave me the name of the actual offender. I thanked him and remained in the hallway to re-think my strategy. The path was clear: I was wrong. I made a mistake. Some would counsel that the person in the “power” position should never apologize; never say: I am sorry. Maintain the authority of the power position by standing firm and alone: “He deserved the punishment for all the times he did not get caught.” However, I was also his religion teacher and the veil on my head was supposed to mean I lived by a different set of standards. I was upset with myself and embarrassed that I had wrongly accused and punished an innocent student. I told the student I had been wrong. Another student had given me the name of the actual offender. I apologized; I asked him to forgive me. He forgave me through a slight nod of his head. I have never forgotten this student: a messenger sent by God to “wake” me from my complacent and justified adult power position.
What “wilderness” will God call us to interact with during Advent: a difficult family member? a relative whose political views differ? a person of color? our Covid depression?
Whatever the wilderness…God will meet us there…with a new message of hope….just listen….