“God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins.” Luke 3:2b-3 (CEB)
I’m told that new novices who entered the community led by St. Benedict would be provided with a robe. They would hang their street clothes in a closet. Every morning the novice would look in the closet and decide which identity they would take on for the day. Their decision stated to whom they belonged and whom they would serve.
So I ask this question: What did you put on this morning? Was it an outfit that revealed the authentic you? Or was it a cover-up? Maybe it wasn’t clothing, but an attitude. Does your attitude reveal who you really are and to whom you belong?
That’s a difficult question to answer during this season of the year. While the “world” calls it Christmas, Christians call it Advent. Advent is a time of preparation and John the Baptizer helps us with those preparations.
He calls us to repentance. He challenges us to enter the wilderness. The wilderness is a place where we don’t want to be. Many of God’s people found themselves in the desert with the wild beasts. Yet each one found God waiting there for them.
John knows a lot about the wilderness; he lives there eating locusts and wild honey. His clothing is sparse, but useful, made of camel’s hair. He prefers to live there. He finds it comfortable to return there after a day of preaching and baptizing.
It doesn’t sound like a very joyful or joy filled experience, does it? After all, who wants to look at their lives and find fault? It’s hard to confess to that of which we fall short.
Yet, call he does. He’s direct and straight forward to the point of rudeness. He doesn’t care who he annoys. He has a job to do and he does it. Isaiah describes it poetically: “Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled. The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth.” (Luke 3:5 CEB)
Today we might say that he levels the playing field for everyone from the wealthiest to the poorest; from the most prestigious to the most in need; from the powerful to the powerless. Those who took on the new life found themselves in a new place. It wasn’t a geographical location that we could find on our Global Positioning Systems. It was a place in their hearts that freed them up to be who God made them to be.
That kind of freedom comes only from God. And though we find ourselves in the wilderness we know that without that testing and prayer and withdrawal, we won’t grow in that freedom as children of God.
So, what did you clothe yourself with today?
More importantly, what will you do about tomorrow’s wardrobe? Will it be joyless and mundane or joyful and joy filled?
All glory and honor be to God.