John 1:6-8 | 3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B
A Man in the Desert, A Baby in the Manger
Over Thanksgiving weekend I cooked for our Thanksgiving meal. To avoid burned edges, I paid close attention at the timer. When I glanced up from the cutting board, the numbers happened to read 3:16. Knife in mid-air, I recalled John’s words: “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.” How apropos for Thanksgiving.
God gave us His only Son. Until I had children, I didn’t fully comprehend the enormity of that act. God sent Jesus, fully human, with the same free will the rest of us have. For us, God let Jesus go, just like we have to do with our own children, trusting that it would be as He intended.
Six months before sending Jesus, “a man named John was sent by God” (v.6). Just as God sent Jesus, God sent John the Baptist too.
John was sent to proclaim, to say words, about the Man who was the Word (John 1:1), who was the spark in the very beginning. John was sent to point to the light (v.7), to Jesus. But it was John’s choice to fulfill the prophecy, whether he would actually speak to the words, actually do the pointing.
Certainly it would have been more comfortable for him to be a respected religious leader, like his father, to lead people as his father did. Then, his head probably would not have wound up on a platter. But instead John chose to be who God had created him to be. He chose to put himself out there as a witness, to testify. Even though God didn’t mitigate John’s pain, God must be as proud as any parent whose child makes the hard, unpopular, but right, choice.
God sends all of us, and He sends us all with a purpose. It may not be an easy one, but it is uniquely ours. He also gives us the free will to choose whether to pursue that purpose.
At Advent and during the Christmas season, those purposes seem so innocent—a man in the desert, a baby in the manger. A few months from now, we will consider the consequences of those purposes and the bloodshed they meant.
All choices have consequences, some are immediate and some in the future. For us as humans, there’s no real way to determine the future. We can make an educated guess, but we can’t know. We can’t know that the baby in the manger will be the man on the cross, and we can only “see indistinctly” (1Cor.13:12). The only way to be certain of the future is to pursue our purpose. It’s what we were made to do. While we still won’t know the in-between that leads to eternity, we can trust that eternity is at the end, and that it is as He intended because He “so loved the world…”