Second Sunday of Advent
December 10, 2023
A celebrity interview (movie stars, pop singers, politicians, billionaires, etc.) very often concludes with the question: What do you hope your legacy will be? Or: How do you want people to remember you after you are gone?
If Oprah had been around to interview John the Baptist, she probably would’ve ended with that question. She might even have suggested the response. Something to the effect of: John, you are well known for calling people to repent. Is that how you see your legacy? Do you want to be remembered for shouting out: REPENT…REPENT…REPENT?
After spending a lot of time reflecting on all that the Gospels tell us about John the Baptist, I want to suggest how I think he would have replied.
Don’t get me wrong, Oprah, I believe that repentance is very, very important. But, in order to repent, you have to look backwards. My job as a prophet was to direct people’s attention to the future…a future that will unfold in and through The Christ.
Obviously, sometimes, a guy has to clean up stuff from the past in order to be able to imagine a better future. It is important to clear away bad memories…or feelings of guilt…or doubt…or regret…so that you’re better able to envision a future filled with hope…and peace…and justice…and love. But in the end…isn’t all about the future!
So, to answer your question…NO! I do not want to be remembered as the voice in the desert yelling REPENT…REPENT…REPENT!
To be perfectly honest, Oprah, I would just as soon not be remembered at all.
My mission was simply to introduce the Messiah. As far as I’m concerned, once I had pointed Jesus out, introducing Him as the Lamb of God Who has taken away the sins of the world, my work was done…and I became totally forgettable, because Jesus Christ is The Future! IT’S JESUS CHRIST WE MUST REMEMBER!
But, of course, we know that John the Baptist is anything but forgettable. Over 2000 years have passed since the events at the Jordan River, which are reported in all four Gospels, and he is still very much remembered and honored. Jesus, Himself, insured that the generations would never forget His cousin’s contribution to salvation history when He remarked: …among those born of women, there has been none greater than John the Baptist. (Matt. 11:11) That certainly is a compliment that makes one sit up and take notice.
So, just exactly what was it that makes John so great and so memorable? What is his legacy to us? What should we remember about him, doing our best to model?
While it’s impossible not to hear the echo of his voice shouting out: REPENT…REPENT…REPENT, the fact of the matter is, almost anyone can do that. I would suggest that what makes John the Baptist so unique as to be greater than anyone else born of women is the fact that having introduced Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ…The Son of God…The unblemished Lamb Who has taken away the sins of the world…The Messiah…he simply stepped aside. The Baptist permitted himself to become less in the eyes of the people, so that Jesus could become more. Simply put, John made room for Jesus.
If, in fact, that is the legacy of John the Baptist, it is an extremely valuable one…an inheritance we should put to good use. And there is no better time than Advent. This is the Season when Christians are called to push back against our own wants and perceived needs and desires, and ambitions…even our own fears and pains and sufferings…so as to make more room for the Christ-child, not only as we celebrate His birth, but as we look to the future.
John the Baptist has taught us to see Christ in our past, to feel His presence, and to make room for Christ in our lives…NOW…and to be confident that Christ is our future! And THAT is something worth remembering.