Welcome to Our World: Reflections on Luke 3:7-18
December 16, 2012
Mayor John Rothschild's "Welcome to Tucson!" Speech
I'm sitting in the Tucson international airport waiting for my plane to Dallas that was delayed an hour and 45 minutes. Every five minutes or so, they play a recording of Mayor Jonathan Rothschild welcoming us to Tucson. He has a very pleasant voice:
Welcome to Tucson! This is Mayor John Rothschild. Tucson is a modern metropolis with a 4,000-year history. Tucson is the home of the University of Arizona, whose researchers recently led a mission to Mars. Tucson is nicknamed "Science City" for its many industries related to information technology, optics and solar power. Experience our authentic Southwestern culture: arts, music, great food and shopping. And we're known for our warm hospitality. Again, welcome to Tucson, and we hope you enjoy your stay!
My husband, Murry, and I have spent the weekend in Tucson caring for matters related to his recently deceased Aunt Kathryn's estate, of which he is the executor. I was already favorably disposed to Tucson because of the gorgeous mountains. But now that the mayor has welcomed me to his city so warmly, maybe I should consider moving here...
Our Advice to John the Baptist on Rewriting his "Welcome to Advent!" Sermon
John the Baptist could have taken a page out of Mayor Rothschild's upbeat book in his greeting to the crowds that came down to the Jordan River for baptism. John's manner and general demeanor do not offer a Chamber of Commerce-type welcome to those seeking baptism. Nor do they offer a warm welcome to the Advent season. John's approach is radically out of step with our world and its cultural celebration of the season of Advent.
Maybe somebody needs to give John a "Welcome to our World" message, offering him advice on how to be successful with contemporary cultural contexts:
Dear Wild Man, Wilderness Baptizer:
Here is what you need to know about our world in order to be successful with your message. We are not accustomed to having our noses rubbed in the fact that our motivations for participating in Advent may be corrupt or at least shallow (Luke 3:7ff). We prefer inhaling the scent of cranberry candles. We are not used to hearing that whether we are ordinary citizens, soldiers or tax collectors, we are called to sacrifice in this season and not engage in self-indulgence (Luke 3:10-14).
Welcome to our world, John. In our world, preparing for the Advent involves practical advice on how to avoid holiday weight gain, decorate on a tight budget, prevent a gift-giving faux pas at work, and whiten our teeth for all those holiday parties. Encourage us to give a toy to a tot, put a coin in a red kettle, and buy a goat for a village we'll probably never visit. Even urge us to engage in moments of grateful reflection on God's goodness in coming to earth. Remember the old saying: "You get more flies with honey than with vinegar."
John the Baptist's Push-Back
We might like John to gather us around the manger and lead us in singing the opening verse of Chris Rice's beautiful song, "Welcome to our World:"
Tears are falling. Hearts are breaking.
How we need to hear from God.
You've been promised. We've been waiting.
Welcome, Holy Child. Welcome, Holy Child.
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.