We have, kind of, a jarring switch in Gospel readings today. Yesterday we were in the beginning of the Passion narrative as told by Luke: Jesus captured and tortured, and Peter denying Jesus three times and Jesus looking at Peter knowingly. Today we have switched to the beginning of the Gospel of Mark and the introduction of John the Baptist.
Jarring changes can be a good thing, keeping us off balance. With that unbalance can come fresh insight into something that is familiar, no longer new. This is one of the things Advent (and the readings we are provided) is meant to do for us: think about Christmas, a time of great societal and church-land conflict, a time that is so very familiar, and explore what Christmas means through a new lens.
I am struck today, in this familiar reading about John the Baptist, by his phrase: I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. In that time and place (when this Gospel was written) only the lowliest of servants would have untied a person's sandals...the lowliest, those counted as the least among them. John, who though living like a wild person in the wilderness, came from a family whose station in life was well above the servant/slave class, is humbling himself in the presence of God. He is saying to the authorities that surround him that he is lower then the lowest slave when it comes to Jesus. He is not worthy of the grace that is coming into the world.
That humble preparation on John's part is a model for us in Advent and is a reminder of God's huge love for each and every one of us. God is taking human form, becoming one with creation, to know us in a different way and for us to know the divine in a different way. Advent can be a time of renewal for us, a time to see the world differently. What a nice way to enter into and prepare for Christmas.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer, All Rights Reserved.