Wednesday, December 13, 2006

john the baptist's guide to christmas preparations

Surprisingly, there's nothing about trimming the tree or baking gingerbread in John the Baptist's advice about how to prepare for Christ's coming.

(There is some talk about an ax cutting a tree, but I think he's talking about something else...)

The juxtapositioning of wild, prophetic, going-to-be-beheaded John the Baptist and our sweet Christmas traditions seems downright twisted.

Of course, technically, this was already many years after that first Christmas when he gives the advice in today's scripture, since it's an adult John who talks here, and we know that he and Jesus were both in their mothers' wombs at the same time. Time complicates things...

NONETHELESS, we talk about John B as we get ready for Christmas. And, helpfully, he has some advice about how to get ready. (I wonder if Martha Stewart ever feels indebted to John for pioneering this field?)

He says some pretty smart things, things that may really, literally, help us. Even today:

If you have 2 coats, give one of them to someone who needs one.

Don't cheat other people, by taking more than is fair.

This is good stuff. He seems to be imagining a more-fair, more beautiful world.

His advice would lead us to live in a world very unlike the one the Old Testament prophet, Zephaniah, describes. There, things are so bad that God has to turn everything over--making the "lame and outcast" into the most powerful and celebrated.

I invite you to think about what that would look like today--who are the most outcast in our midst, or in our world? And what would it look like for them to be lifted up, exalted, celebrated?

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