KILLJOY (Matthew 3:1-12): 05 December 2010 (2nd Sunday of Advent)
There’s something strange about our Gospel reading today. Did you notice what was wrong with the picture?
We’re supposed to be in the season of Advent, preparing for Christmas. And when we say Christmas, we think of such familiar characters like the angels proclaiming good news, shepherds leaving their flock to check out the baby Jesus, and wise men following stars and bearing gifts. These are feel-good characters and what is Christmas if not the season for feeling good?
But today, the 2nd Sunday of Advent, we don’t meet angels, shepherds, or wise men. Instead we have John the Baptist. Not exactly the person we want to spend time with at our Christmas get-togethers. He would be such a kill-joy, the very type of person who would make you feel guilty that you’re enjoying the party. He would probably scowl disapprovingly at the ham and the cake and dump them for his usual diet of locusts and honey, not to mention that he would not exactly show up in the proper attire.
Also, if he were on Facebook, he would probably be posting statuses like: “Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” Or worse: “You brood of vipers!” In other words, no matter how you look at him, John the Baptist is bad news, and what he would post on Facebook are precisely what you don’t want to find in your news feed these days—or any other day. John the Baptist is just the type of person you would un-friend on Facebook without hesitation.
During Advent, we recall the mystery of how our Lord Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us.” After all, that’s what Christmas is all about. But he didn’t just choose to dwell among us in general, but had certain preferences: He spent the greatest amount of time not on the usual preferred celebrities or glamorous and likeable people. Instead he preferred to be close to the rejects of society: the poor, the sick, the sinners especially the tax collectors, the prostitutes. In other words, the dregs and rejects of society. People most of us would rather not associate with. Maybe one message that the Lord has for us in this season of Advent is to seek out these very people that the Lord prefers. The people in our lives whom, for whatever reason, we don’t like.
I was wondering why. Why do we need to do this? I thought of two reasons: Maybe because these are the people who need help. And maybe because it’s the way for us to imitate the Lord.
I found a third reason in the Gospel reading. It never occurred to me before, but the prophet John the Baptist would fit in the same category: People whose company we don’t exactly enjoy, people we’d rather not spend time with or be seen with. But it is John the Baptist who was credited for preparing the way of the Lord, for straightening the path for Him, for pointing Him out for the Lord’s very disciples when he said: “Behold the Lamb of God!” The reason we should seek out the people we don’t like, to widen our circle to include those we usually exclude is that they will be John the Baptist in our lives. In God’s mysterious ways, it is these very people who will point us the way to the Lord. Advent is a season to stop excluding these people.