John the Baptist would have been a difficult character to be around. A camel-hair shirt-wearing, locust-eating prophet whose words came straight from the hip.
If I was preaching this weekend, I might seek to avoid the Gospel reading and concentrate much more on the more palatable Philippians reading – Rejoice and pray. Now I can do that – and it will cause me little harm – I can rejoice and pray with the best of them.
However, would John the Baptist be shouting at me and others – ‘you brood of vipers’? Would he be saying just because you come to Church and wear a dog collar what makes you think that you are safe? John the Baptist makes us feel uncomfortable just as he made King Herod uncomfortable enough to have him beheaded. So rather than ignore John’s words in our Gospel, I think Advent is time to lean into the readings to help us prepare to celebrate the coming of the King.
Advent has become a word that lost its power and seems old and archaic. However, to me Advent should be an important season of preparation and anticipation. Preparation – that we are able to do by leaning into the words of John’s warning and checking our own hearts in the light of them, to ensure that we are not sitting smugly behind a dutiful type of faith but have hearts that are transformed by the following of Jesus Christ. If we have self-reflected, as some did on our Quiet Day and prepared properly for Advent – then we can be full of joyful anticipation for the coming of Jesus.
It is only when we are prepared and in a state of anticipation that we are more likely to see God’s glory now in the everyday and in the ordinary. To see God’s glory in those that God has placed around us.