This week in our gospel readingWe get John the Baptist, Part 2. And in our psalm we get very briefly -Mary Part One. More….. much more about Mary next week.
Do you ever wonder if John the Baptist made the first Christians as uncomfortable as he does us?
Strange clothes, weird diet fire and brimstone preaching,
Matthew the Evangelist struggles to make John fit the larger story of Jesus he is telling.
There’s that cryptic phrase in today’s gospel: John is great- but the least disciple in the kingdom Is greater than he is.
Matthew seems almost to openly dislike John.
Take Matthew's description of John's encounter with the Pharisees From last week.
Goodness gracious, but it seems harsh.
“You brood of vipers! John yells. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
John’s preaching does make me uncomfortable. It is, quite frankly, unrelenting fire and brimstone.
In Matthew’s gospel, there is not one glimmer of grace in John's preaching.
Maybe that's Matthew's point all along.
Maybe it's not that Matthew doesn't like John, maybe he just wants to be clear about who and what John is – the forerunner, the one who points to Christ, the one who not only calls our attention to him but creates in us a hunger for him.
It's not that Matthew doesn't like John. It's that Matthew believes John only has half the story.
To experience God’s Promise, according to Matthew, we have to look to Jesus.
Not a bad reminder as we enter more deeply into Advent.
For what do we wait, and watch, and prepare? And where do we find the courage and hope to repent?
We all have John the Baptists in our own lives- Probably not a prophet in smelly camel skin yelling in our face.
But maybe the wacky aunt or other family member who reminds us that we are never too grown up to receive correction.
Or the neighbor who makes us want to run and hide every time we see her or him.
Or our John the Baptist could simply be a situation Which makes us feel uncomfortable, Incapable.
It could be joblessness, The rush of the holidays, An unexpected illness- Ours or someone elses.
In my case MY John the Baptist Was the recent death of my father.
Coming as it did on Thanksgiving Eve It threw my life from third gear into reverse.
I’m still coping with the aftermath And I’m sure I will be for months if not years to come.
But slowly, As I do so, I’m beginning to realize once again how much I need God, How much I need my friends and family, How much I need a moment of grace.
That moment of grace, is perfectly illustrated in Mary’s Song which peeks through the liturgy as our Psalm this morning.
We will hear more about and from her next week- Much more . But Mary’s words TODAY will lead us into these paths of grace Where we need to go this Christmas season.
She points us to her Son Jesus And to God as the cure for fire and brimstone.
My soul proclaims the greatness of our God, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; * who has looked with favor on this lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: You O God have done great things for me, and holy is your Name.
This Advent For Matthew, For Jesus cousin John the Baptist, And Mary, Jesus moother And for us, the matter is clear:
In God we will find grace to live life most fully.
John the Baptist steadfastly points us there. As do the circumstances of our lives, if we will only listen. for this good news, for this promise, for this season of waiting and watching, Amen.