Suppose you were walking down Main Street and saw someone who had the appearance of John, shouting about preparing for the coming of Jesus, how would you respond? According to scripture, in his time the people flocked to him and not only listened to him but responded to his message and became disciples of his. Today, I believe we would cross the street to avoid any and all contact with him. We would look upon him as an outcast of society – unkempt, dirty, and just a little flakey. He and his message would be something to be ignored and even shut up by the authorities
Yet John’s message resonated with those who believed in the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. They believe that God would send them one who would proclaim the good news, heal the afflicted and broken hearted, bring sight to the blind and proclaim a year of favor. These same things are longed for today by so many. The question for us is who is telling us today that the only way to live is by embracing Christ. Not just embracing him but to do as Mary did and say, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”
We need to listen to that quiet gentle voice who is constantly calling us to follow him. We need to open our hearts to those who challenge us with the boldness and certainty of John the Baptist. It is far too easy for us to get caught up in the season and to look at Christmas as the birth of Christ, of his coming to earth. It is not just an event that we celebrate with beautiful liturgies, with hymns that proclaim Glory to God, with wonder and awe that God is with us. It was and is God’s love breaking through to reconcile us to himself. It was because of the gift of Christ that we were given a life full of the wonder of God, lived in the power of the Spirit.
My brothers and sisters, it is far too easy for us to focus only on the infant Jesus and overlook the fact that like the Baptist we too are made with a plan and a purpose in mind. One that includes finding and responding to God’s purpose for our lives. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus said of the Pharisees and lawyers that “they missed the purpose of their lives” since they did not respond to the call to baptism by John. So how have we responded to our baptism call; how have we appropriated the grace of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us in confirmation.
In the first letter of Peter, we are told that each has been given a special gift and we are to use it to serve each other. Paul tells us that the gifts of the spirit are given to each one of us for the common good. We are called to serve and to use our gifts and talents to build the kingdom of God. We see these gifts being used by so many of our brothers and sisters in so many varied ways. Our community of faith is inspiring. It is made up of these living stones building a spiritual house and accomplishing so much good. Yet, we are not complete as a community until each and every individual is using their gift to build the kingdom of God.
Today the challenge for us goes beyond just using our gifts and talents in serving those in our community or those we minister to in Honduras, in Columbia, in El Salvador or in any other foreign county. We are called to go beyond using our gifts to feed the poor, visit the sick and heal the broken hearted. Living the Christian life goes beyond passing on our faith to our youth and helping them find their own relationship with God. We are called to do more than what Peter says in today epistle when he says, “what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion.” Our expression of faith must be more than being holy men and women of God living a life of devotion in the confines of our church community. That is just too safe and too comfortable and we are called to be and to do more. Yet it is in doing just these kind of things that we are spiritually built up and strengthened to encounter a different kind of calling – that is the calling to “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
Today’s gospel reminds us that we are called to bring the message of Christ to those who are strangers to Christ. To even bring that message to modern day society which seeks to silence the message of the gospel and the voice of those who proclaim Christ? Here are just a few actions by groups in the past months seeking to limit religious expression: the freedom from religion foundation: halted an Alabama city’s “Keep Christ in Christmas” parade – stopped football coaches from praying with players in an Ohio school – had crosses removed from the helmets of a football team that were honoring a fellow player who that week was killed in an automobile accident – has filed an injunction against a Florida County Commission that put “in God we trust” in their meeting chambers.
In Colorado a group of students meeting at noon to pray and worship in an unused classroom were told that they could meet but they could no longer pray and worship as part of their gathering. In Boston an annual school trip to see the Nutcracker was cancelled by the PTA because a Christmas tree is on the set as part of the story. That PTA group claimed that the tree is offensive to some individuals.
Those are just a few of the things happening in our own country silencing the visible witness of Christians.
My brothers and sisters, earlier I said that today John’s message would be something to be ignored and even shut up by the authorities. It is happening in every state and in our own communities. We need to be like John and become the messengers.
Our mission is to proclaim the kingdom of God is among us. Boldly say to all we meet that “God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; For the Lord God is my strength and song… (I will) make known His deeds among the peoples, make them remember that His name is exalted” Is. 12:3-4