John the Baptist’s message
3 In the fifteenth year of the rule of the emperor Tiberius—when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea and Herod was ruler over Galilee, his brother Philip was ruler over Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was ruler over Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to forgive their sins. 4 This is just as it was written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet,
A voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight. 5 Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled. The crooked will be made straight and the rough places made smooth. 6 All humanity will see God’s salvation.”
Devotion by Anne Mooney
As most of you know, I am a teacher. I teach students with autism. They are bright and often have interesting perspectives on what is happening in the world and in their lives. Now that the Christmas season is here, they are very excited. “It is December!” they say. “Christmas is coming. There will be presents, lights, and snow.” I asked them this week why Christmas is important. One of the older boys said it was because baby Jesus was coming. I was surprised to hear this and not something about Santa Claus. I couldn’t help it, I had to ask, “What is so important about Jesus?” The same boy said, “He is our Lord and Savior.” The others were silent, so I asked another question. “Yes, many people say that about Jesus. What do you think that means?” Now they ALL were silent. So was my paraprofessional. I considered my own question…and the fact that we really are not supposed to talk or teach about religious beliefs in public school classrooms. Yet I felt compelled to not leave the question unanswered. I said, “I think what is important about Jesus is how he showed us how to live and take care of ourselves and each other.”
John the Baptist is attempting to get people’s attention. He is a prophet, like the ones we hear about in the Old Testament. He challenges everyone (including us) to change their ways. We can’t change if we can’t accept that we need to change. We need to be forgiven and set free to live new lives. Lives filled with loving relationships and respect. Lives of equity and justice. We don’t often recognize our need for change without experiencing our own personal wilderness. And our transformation doesn’t come through the VIPS and ruling powers anymore than it did in the time of Jesus and John the Baptist. Our lives change when we follow the way of Jesus.
Heavenly Creator, we love this time of year when the joy of anticipation fills us with hope. We await the birth of Emmanuel and pray that we will be changed by the message of Jesus and John the Baptist. We pray that our world is transformed into a place of love, mercy, and justice. Amen.