During Advent this year, I will be reflecting daily using this Advent Photo Devotional. The word designated for December 10th was #Shout. Admittedly, I am a couple days behind, but I am trying to catch up on the series.
This weekend’s gospel passage, appointed by the revised common lectionary, is all about John the Baptist. Even though it doesn’t say that John was shouting, it’s pretty easy to imagine him shouting as he proclaims,
“‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Luke 3:7-9, NRSV
You don’t always see an exclamation point in scripture, and so when you do it’s probably important. Sometimes we need to be awakened and moved to act. We can become complacent, overly content, or at least comfortable in the way things are. It can cause us to lose sight of all that we are called to do. This feeling of comfort can let us turn inward and close our eyes and senses to the needs of our neighbors around us. That’s why it’s refreshing, and somewhat terrifying that this man, John the Baptist, is shouting in the wilderness at whoever might hear. Some people might think he’s crazy. But then he continues on in his wisdom by answering some questions.
“And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.'” – Luke 3:10-14, NRSV.
Sometimes it takes one shouting in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” to wake us up to the Advent around us. Sometimes, it takes someone shouting on the streets to open our eyes to injustice and hunger. Sometimes, it takes a weird looking man like John the Baptist to make us sit up and listen.
What shouting do you hear? Does it get your attention, or do you ignore it?
We hear lots of shouting these days, especially on all sides of the political spectrum. Instead of shouting, I think listening and dialogue, and looking for points of commonality would be more helpful. But in order to get us to sit down and work for the common good, it might just take a John the Baptist crying in the wilderness to point out how much we really need Jesus the Lord.
What do you think?