Reading I: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11
Reading II: 2 Peter 3:8-14
GOSPEL: Mark 1:1-8

During this special time of year, we often try to look out for others – but there are definitely limits to what we’re comfortable doing. Imagine this situation: You and your kids are walking into the mall and there is a man standing on the corner. He is shabbily dressed and has obviously not showered. He is babbling rather loudly about preparation, salvation and the coming of the Lord. What would you do?

Is He “Touched?”

How would you react to the homeless “preacher” on the corner? Do you acknowledge or ignore him? Do you protectively move your kids away? Now imagine that your children begin to ask questions about this man. Do you ignore their inquiries or label the man crazy, poor, or a bum? And in case you’re wondering, this isn’t a purely fictional situation. It’s one I faced – and I chose to turn my head and take my kids in a different direction.

Most people would agree that the man likely has some mental issues. Some may say he is just unfortunate, poor, and a product of our societal iniquities. Those on the other side of the fence might suggest he should just shut up and get a job. How many of us, in today’s society, would really stop and listen to someone like this? How many of us would take it a step further and follow him and his advice?

Or is He “Touched by God?”

The gospel this week tells us of such a man. He ranted and raved about salvation. He wore camel’s hair for clothing. He ate bugs and wild honey. Amazingly, people didn’t shy away from him and ignore him. On the contrary, many actually flocked to him to hear his message. This man was John the Baptist.

John preached repentance and forgiveness. John proclaimed, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

I can’t read your mind but you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but that’s different. That was 2,000 years ago.” Or maybe your initial reaction was something like, “Yeah, but those were the chosen people. John was supposed to come to them, not us.” And you might be right. Or not.

Should we judge God’s messengers and methods by different standards today? Don’t we have the same need for repentance and forgiveness that was needed 2,000 years ago? Do we believe that the Holy Spirit can’t work and speak through people today unless they’re “leaders” in an organized religion? If we believe that God’s truth is still God’s truth regardless of who says it, shouldn’t we listen to more of the voices we hear?

Do You Know the Time?

In the second reading, Peter proclaims, “With the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” We have to remember God’s time is much different than our human experience and understanding of time. None of us knows the time and place of Jesus’ return – whether in a thousand years or in a couple of days – and that poses quite a dilemma for our human minds.

Most of us tend to think, “Not in my lifetime,” which makes us careless. It makes us put off many truly important things. We get caught up in our daily tasks and the things of this world: our jobs, our stress, and our money. If we knew the exact time that the end of the world was coming, don’t you think things would be a tad different?

I’m not suggesting that we run out and form a cult because some dude on the corner claims to be a prophet. I just think that we need to be more aware of the people and voices we encounter. Our lives are precious and none of us know when God will be calling us home. I think we need to open our hearts and our minds as often as possible. We need to reach out and be Christ for others and let others be Christ for us too.

I don’t know what I would do if I met that man near the mall again. I like to think I’d have a conversation with him. But in all honesty, my reservedness might cause me to walk past once again – though I would at least try not to think badly of him. Change is a journey and small steps can still move us in the right direction. During this Advent season, let us pray for open hearts and open minds as we continue on our journey of faith and prepare for the birth of our savior. Help us to heed the message of John the Baptist: Christ is coming!

Merry Christmas!

Life Applications:

Do you believe there are messengers or prophets sent in our time? Why or why not?
How can we express the same zeal for Christ that John the Baptist expressed?
How can you ensure that your heart and mind are open and welcoming during Advent?

Original article by Rod Hetherton, 2005-2020.
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