John the Baptist was a real character. His diet consisted of grasshoppers and wild honey. He wore clothes made from camel hair. His residence of choice was the wilderness of the desert. Even though a bit eccentric by our standards, there is much we can learn from this Advent character.
John knew he was not the light. He pointed the way to the light. The same is true for us. We are not the light. Our lives are to point the way to Jesus who is the light. Rather than being center stage, through our actions, we place the focus on Jesus. In difficult times when it would be easier to get lost in darkness, shining the light of Jesus on those dark moments can guide us forward. We also can help others to see the light in themselves. Noticing and affirming the good qualities of others may help them see something valuable about themselves they may not have otherwise acknowledged.
John the Baptist spent his whole life preparing for someone else. The call of a disciple is to live for others. Instead of needing to be in the spotlight, we can look for opportunities to give others a chance to shine. As John prepared for Jesus, we, too, can prepare for others. Like preparing a meal for someone who could use a break. Or preparing a cheerful home for the holidays by tidying things up and placing a few Christmas decorations around. We can prepare a place in our hearts for somebody we have been too busy for or a place for the Lord in our soul by going to confession.
John left something for God. He knew that Jesus who came after him could do things that he could not, like making the lame walk and the blind see (Matthew 11:2-11). He prepared the way for Jesus. He then stepped aside to allow Jesus to do his work. We cannot do it all, even though sometimes we think we can. It is very liberating to know what we can and cannot do. What do we need to let go of because it is not ours to do? What do we need to leave for God to do?
With John the Baptist, we are called to point to the light, prepare for others and leave something for God. Advent invites us to be real characters.
Together in faith,
The Very Rev. Christopher Smith, rector