With the hate that fills our wasteland of a world today, oh how we need a little Christmas, right this very minute.
The gospels tell us that in order to get a little Christmas, we first need to get a little John the Baptist, a voice crying out in the wilderness telling people the God’s honest truth. They tell us that “multitudes” went to hear the truth, even though they knew that sometimes the truth hurts, that sometimes the truth is not an easy thing to swallow. However, they instinctively knew that it was this truth that was going to set them free. If we listen to him, we will hear him make two points in his sermon: “God is coming!” and “You must change!”
John preached something like: “You are not right. Some part of you needs to be cut off, removed; something inside of you needs to be burned away. The racism and sexism, the homophobia and xenophobia, all of the pride, bigotry and hate inside of you needs to be destroyed, so we can fulfill the greatest commandment of God and love all of our neighbors: our white neighbors and our black neighbors; our straight neighbors and our LGBTQ neighbors; our Christian neighbors and our Muslim neighbors; our rich neighbors and our poor neighbors; our English-speaking neighbors and our foreign-speaking neighbors; our abled-bodied neighbors and our disabled neighbors.”
From his prolific sermon illustrations, “the fire, the ax, and chaff,” we know that what John was preaching was the death of something old and the birth of something new. John was preaching that before something can be born anew and fresh within us, something old and rotten has to die; before we can experience rebirth and new growth, the archaic and the stagnant need to pass away.
And when John preached with this brutal honesty, when John told the people what they needed to change, what they needed to cut off and burn up, the wilderness began to look something like the Garden of Eden. The muddy Jordan became the River of Life. Out of the dry dust, a flower began to bloom. The wasteland began to look a little like Christmas.