December 8, 2019: Leading Us to Jesus

Second Sunday of Advent

We might wonder what John the Baptizer is doing in our Advent readings when we are moving toward the birth of Jesus. This is out of chronological order and perhaps disturbs our sense of linear continuity. But if we approach the text from a different direction, we might discover some meaningful connections.

John, who seems to show up in the Gospels out of nowhere, or possibly out of the Qumran community near the Dead Sea, is described as a rough-looking character in his less-than-refined wardrobe of camel hair. Whatever his appearance, John is apparently clear about his purpose, which is to lead others to Jesus. Keeping that in mind, maybe we can begin to see why John is present in the Scriptures for Advent.

As he came to prepare a path for the One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, John can surely inspire us to clear the clutter of material excess, excuses, and rationalizations that might get in the way of our authentic preparation for the journey to Bethlehem.

Still there is more, I think: John’s call for repentance. In our planning and preparing for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we need also to repent, to turn away from whatever separates us from our Lord. So let us walk with John on the path he has helped us to clear.

Yes, John, you belong here, and we welcome you.


Judith Justice, retired pastor
Winston-Salem, North Carolina