Tuesday, December 6, 2011
A Voice in the Desert
I've seen him more times than I can remember to count. For years now, he has carried a sign and shouted in a loud voice with a long drawl that winds its way through moss laden oaks and time worn squares of Savannah. Whether he's denouncing communism or predicting the end of the world, I truly cannot say, because like most who encounter this self-proclaimed prophet, I go out of my way to avoid him.
The 2nd week in Advent draws our attention to another somewhat like the man forementioned ... yet very different. His name? John the Baptist.
I have to admit I have an affinity for this one who is so unique ... so strange. I was first introduced to him when I was a child in Sunday school. After all, he was the one who baptized Jesus! The one who wasn't worthy to tie Jesus' sandals. The one who proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! The one who had his head chopped off and served on a platter. (Okay, so that last one probably wasn't offered in my Sunday pre-school literature.) But more recently, I was re-introduced to this fiery character by a former pastor who was also magnetized by this unique individual.
Mark's gospel doesn't begin with an annunciation to Mary or with shepherds abiding in the fields. It doesn't have angels shouting in the heavens. It simply says, The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Song of God. As it is writen in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way." And, bam, John, the first real prophet in Israel in some 400 years shows up on the scene. And what an appearance he made! He was dressed in a camel's hair cloak tied with a leather belt around his waist. His hair and beard had never been cut, and living on a diet of wild honey and locusts, he must have been as skinny as a rail. This is the one the Lord had chosen to announce His coming? Surely he looked more like a cave man than a prophet. But indeed he was, and people flocked to him. And that's one of the differences right there in the street evangelist and the character in Mark.
Another way they were different is that street evangelists seem to plant themselves in your way and dare you to get out of it. Not John the Baptist. One had to GO to the DESERT to find him. And go they did. In droves. Through rocky crevices and down bandit infested trails, they traveled by foot and mule to see this one who seemed from another planet.
And that's what amazes me so about all of this; something of which I've never thought before now. The "beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ" did not have its inaugural in a church. Only those who were willing to enter the wilderness got to experience first the freedom of which John proclaimed. And for someone that's been living in some barren land lately, that's huge.
As one author put it, "The good news is always beginning somewhere in the world, for those with ears to hear and hearts to go wherever the way may lead."
Heard any voices lately?
Just an ordinary moment...