Gospel: John 1:6–8, 19–28
God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light.
This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”
“Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”
“No,” he replied.
“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”
“Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”
John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”
Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing. (NLT)
In their book The First Christmas, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan write, “Do we think that peace on earth comes from Caesar or Christ? Do we think it comes through violent victory or nonviolent justice? Advent, like Lent, is about a choice of how to live personally and individually, nationally and internationally. Christmas is [. . .] about what means we will use toward the end [result] of a peace from heaven upon our earth.”
To effect a meaningful change in his time, John did not need to resort to violence, consider the end as a justification for the means, or attempt to grab any sort of power for himself. Rather, he retreated to the outskirts of civilization – so much so that he subsisted on locusts and honey rather than traveling to town for a proper meal – and taught repentance and baptism. John knew that the broken shalom – peace, wholeness, right way of being – of our world and the broken relationship between God and man would not be made right until the Messiah made it so, which is why, for John, his message of repentance and baptism was to help prepare the people for the Christ and his coming Kingdom.
John knew he couldn’t change the world, but he knew of One who could, so he pointed toward the Messiah, the Prince of Peace who brought the shalom of heaven down to earth. This, too, is our calling. We are invited by Jesus to be peacemakers in our world, but the only way to do that is to emulate the Christ, speaking out and living our lives in such a way that everything we say and do points to Jesus.
Michael Benson – Communications Writer for the NAB International Office