Summary: John the Baptist declares, "It is time!"
This is a great text. The majesty of the writing -- what would Christmas be without the Christmas text from Luke? "In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus . . . ." All the names and dates. Historical details that make the story come alive. The event, marked in time and place -- in the midst of the world order of the day. "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius. . ."
In the first year of the third mandate of Prime Minister Jean Chretien, when Adrienne Clarkson was Governor General of Canada, Roy Romanow was premier of Saskatchewan, Gerry Ritrz was the member of parliament for North Battleford - Lloydminster, Jack Hillson was the member of the legislature from North Battleford, Wayne Ray was the mayor of North Battleford, Gail Sack was the mayor of Battleford, Allan Grundahl was the Bishop of Saskatchewan, the word of God came to . . . you!
Makes you want to sit up and take notice. Maybe a little uncomfortable, certainly immediate. This is the time! This is the time between the old order and the new -- what was and what is to be. And we are right in the middle of it. WOW!!
But maybe it makes us uncomfortable. How audacious it was for John the Baptist, a recluse from the hills to stand before the world powers, as they were so neatly outlined, and dare to declare that a new world order is about to crash in upon them. All the emperors, the church authorities and any other self-important people are about to see something they could not have even imagined.
One who is coming, one for whom they have been, looking for centuries, yet one who would catch them unawares and flat footed. This was the Lord, the Messiah. You and I are the one’s standing in John’s place with the unlikely and amazing opportunity to declare to the Old Order "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
You might want to protest, "But that was the First Century this is the 21st Century". I would suggest we live in times similar to those days when few had heard of Jesus, many had hunger for a God who would care for them, and a time when people had little concern for the needs of others. A time when wealth meant power, and position meant privilege.
It is to us that the "word of God" comes -- to proclaim a baptism of repentance. To say to the powers that be, that the emperor has no clothes. To assert in the face of the assumption that the way power and influence is determined in this age is not how God wants it. "Prepare for the one who comes to make all things new. The one who comes to set things right."
We are called to be a voice crying out in the wilderness. Call people to turn from the assumptions of power and influence and see life for what it is -- a gift from God, to be used in the service of others and God.
We are called to poke holes in the myths of society that says that the heroes are those with money, the ones people see making millions. The myth that says you worth is determined by your bank account or the people you control.
We live "in between" times. Between the old order and the new order, just like John the Baptist. We are to call people "to turn away from their sin", to turn from that which denies life and turn toward that which gives life, even if society shouts even louder. To turn away from violent and abusive television and video games, to turn away from the many destructive media that bombard us day to day. To turn away from political structures that destroy some people and make others rich.
To help those lost in the shuffle and confusion to see the one who gives life. Who give life a purpose and meaning.
We are called to "make his path straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth;" Why? So that "all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
Prepare the way so that there is nothing that will confuse or ambush those looking to see Jesus. To remove anything in our lives as individuals or as a congregation that might confuse those who come among us looking for the one who gives life and release from the prison of the old order.
We are given the words of life, not just for ourselves but to share. Our task is stated so clearly in a poem written by a young person looking to the Christian community for companionship along the journey.