Today’s gospel paints the well-known picture of John the Baptist. A loner living the desert, dressed in camel’s hair with a leather belt eating locusts and wild honey. I can imagine the long stringy, dirty hair, a bushy, tangled beard, crudely made sandals and an aroma that would clear a wide path for him. What did he have that made the whole Judean countryside flock to him for baptism? Why did they rush out to him to confess their sins? Why would they listen to a wild looking loner telling them to clean up their lives?
Why? Because he gave them hope. Hope that things could be better; hope that the God who had taken care of them since Abraham was coming to take care of them again. His message brought excitement, stirring them to their core with the desire to be ready for the Messiah. Yet he is humble and wants the people to focus not on him, but on the Mighty One who comes after.
Today it seems as if hope is for sale by slick presenters who would have you believe that they are the Mighty One or that they have an exclusive deal with him. A good sound bite, and a viral You Tube video and people’s hearts and souls are theirs for the taking.
John the Baptist wasn’t selling hope, he was giving it. He was living it. I’ve known quite a few John characters in my life. The friend who’s illness doesn’t stop them from living and ministering breathes hope into the world. The mentally ill person who struggles daily to stay connected and productive preaches hope just as John did. The parents trying to raise their children with values demonstrate hope in many ways, large and small. An elder who considers the end of this life a passage to a new phase, closer than ever to God teaches hope. The community here that gathers to worship and serve lives in hope that one day we will truly see Jesus in others.
I’m sure that if you look carefully and prayerfully, you’ll see John the Baptist is still busy this Advent.