|Deisis in Hagia Sophia, 12th century|
Today on this Advent II, we celebrate the lives of all the prophets, but in particular John the Baptist, all of whom waited expectantly for the salvation of God. John's journey was foretold to his father and indeed to his mother, whereupon her greeting by the Theotokos, John leapt joyfully in the presence of His Savior. At John's birth, everyone said, "What then will this child be?" For the hand of the Lord was with him.
Zechariah, his dad, prophesied concerning his relationship to Jesus:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us. And you, child, will be the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people, in the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
Then the word of God came to John when he lived out in the wilderness at which point he went all throughout the land, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Though this was the Good News, he held out hope for all of them that "he who is mightier, whose sandal John was not worthy to untie, would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire", an even fuller picture of the salvation of God.
When John had been imprisoned by Herod, he had his doubts and curiosities and sent word to Jesus to ask him if He was the one to come? Jesus uses the words of prophets to confirm to John that indeed the Good News he himself had preached was being fulfilled in Jesus. Then, Jesus gives a beautiful picture of His love for John and asks the crowd: "What did you go out to see in the wilderness? A reed shaken by the wind? A man dressed in soft clothing? A prophet? Yes! Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet! And he confirms the call God placed on John, saying, "I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than he." This is confusing because Jesus also was born of a woman and yet he anoints and exalts John. I think that is what it means for God to befriend us and is so beautiful that even in the midst of John's doubt, Jesus upholds his faithfulness and the hope that John expressed in God. And so, he is still one of the great cloud of witnesses who calls us into preparation and heralds the making straight of the crooked. Alleluia.
Listen below to There's a Voice in the Wilderness Crying (1982 Hymnal #75), instrumental only, on organ