We all know how we would like to hear the news. For many of us, it would be in a comfortable recliner in our den, with just the right beverage in our hand. If the sharp and surprising word must come, O God, let it be as palatable and packaged as possible.
But we get nothing palatable or packaged from John the Baptist. Instead of the Man with Easy Answers, we first hear one “no” after another. “I am not the Messiah; I am not Elijah; I am not the prophet.” John fits neatly in no prefabricated categories; instead, his rough edges rip at all our preconceptions about faith – and ourselves.
In these darkening days of cold and chill, as the sun slides ever more quickly over the horizon in early evening, we are not prepared to entertain John’s invitation to straighten out ourselves and prepare God’s way. We are all too familiar with the siren songs of the attractive dark alleys to which we have grown accustomed.
But if we would wait, we must admit that sometimes this present moment is defined by what has come before – God’s promise – and by what comes after – God’s inbreaking presence. If we follow in John’s footsteps, then we are heralds, announcers, Those Who Point. Such a circumscribed witness seems paltry to those of us who are far too enamored of our own gifts, abilities and wisdom.
But what could be more important than testifying to the Light?