Today we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, the last of the prophets who pointed to the coming of Jesus. He was specially called by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, God’s chosen redeemer. In many ways, he is the archetypal image of a doom and gloom prophet. He was dressed in camel’s hair living off of Locust and honey in the wilderness crying out things like “the ax is already at the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10), calling and calling the religious leaders “vipers”(Matt 3:7), while warning those in power that they had better turn or burn (Luke 3:18). There are many today who look somewhat like John the Baptist. They specialize in finding what is wrong in our world and proclaim there will be dire consequences if we do not heed their warnings. There is a key difference, however, many doom and gloom prophets today specialize in sewing fear, anger and distrust. John, on the other hand, was a prophet of hope.
John the Baptist was different than those who decry our world today. For John, the point was not primarily condemnation but reconciliation. His whole life was oriented around what God had promised to do and when he saw that promise being fulfilled in Jesus Christ he had no problem fading decreasing and moving to the background (John3:30). John was all about pointing to the solution (John 1:29). He understood what true repentance was all about. It wasn’t about getting people to feel bad, but turning people’s hearts back to the only place where they could find true hope, God Himself. John brought a fiery word, but his fire was of hope and of love.
Let us be people who emulate his hope. His whole life was oriented around seeking the savior and making a way for him to come into the lives of those who would have him into the world that he inhabited. Our Gospel reading today we read that John “grew and became strong in spirit” (Luke 1:80) because “the hand of the Lord was with him” (Luke 1:66). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live a life full of hope and strength because God is with us? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have lives of purpose like the one John had? The good news is scripture promises we can. Jesus tells us that as great as John was, even the least of those in God’s kingdom have a greater call on their lives.
Let us welcome the Savior into our lives in our world today too. Let us be a people set on pointing to Jesus, “the lamb of God” (John 1:29), our hope!