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Two millennia before television, he provided an interesting afternoon’s entertainment. His audiences ranged from the curious to the zealous. He was a curiosity himself…down by the river, dressed in camel skin, living on locusts, crying to the heavens: “Repent. Repent. Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
Seen through contemporary, secular eyes, John was anything but the ideal next door neighbor. He dressed funny. He talked funny. He was noisy and he drew crowds. You might say he was the original “Jesus-freak.” Today, by most, he’d be judged as unfit for polite society. Better give that guy a very wide berth.
We’ve come a long way from the banks of the Jordan. When was the last time you proclaimed Jesus to friends, neighbors…even your own family? In fact if our lives were the only testament available, would anyone even know that Christ had ever lived, had died for us, is risen and will come again? The Baptist never lived to see the rest of this story. But we have. We’ve been raised on it. We study scripture. We worship together in song and in prayer. We meet regularly in Christian fellowship.
But then a very strange thing happens. We slip out the church door and back into the secular mainstream. And from Sunday to Sunday, there’s seldom, if ever, a public word of Jesus on our lips. Chances are we’ll never be called to wrap ourselves in camel skins and live on locusts. But we are called to proclaim Jesus, to build his kingdom, to witness his love. We have been told specifically that if we do not proclaim him, if we actively or passively deny Christ, his Father will deny us.
So what do we take away from this Advent gospel? A play-it-safe Christian is hardly a Christian at all. Start by putting Christ at the center of your day. Don’t keep that your secret. Share him. Wishing: “God bless you.” rather than “Good luck.” is a very small start. Better yet, combine that acclamation with reflexive acts of kindness. Feeling braver? Try greeting good news, whatever the source, with: “Thank you, Jesus.” Dining out? Say a simple grace before meals. Don’t be ostentatious. But don’t be surreptitious either. “Thank you, Lord, for this meal and all the blessings of this day.” From the heart, that will do just fine. With practice, go further. Seek out fellow Christians among the folks you see each day. Tell them of your faith journey. Ask them to share theirs. Don’t be shy. Christ is with you. Starting today: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord. "And this time, make it real.
Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,
Gentile, da Fabriano, ca. 1370-1427. John the Baptist, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=46774 [retrieved November 29, 2011].