White stars that stand above the eastern stable.
Look down and offer Him.
The dim adoring light of your belief.
Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire.
Shall not this Child
(When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice)
Conquer the winter of our hateful century? (Thomas Merton)
“He will be a joy and delight to you, and many people will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the Lord’s eyes. He must not drink wine and liquor. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth. He will bring many Israelites back to the Lord their God. He will go forth before the Lord, equipped with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of fathers back to their children, and he will turn the disobedient to righteous patterns of thinking. He will make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-17; context)
Today’s passage continues Gabriel’s speech to Zechariah begun in yesterday’s reading. Again, we could compare what Gabriel says about John with what the angel says about Jesus to Mary, but I think I will resist today. (But you could go for it yourself, you overachiever! Just read ahead a few verses in Luke 1.)
With these words, Gabriel describes John’s role as the story unfolds. While we might be tempted to skip John’s part in the story to get to the “real” story about Jesus, we do so to our detriment. It would be like skipping the opening act of a concert only to find out later that the opening band was really good. But John is more than Jesus’ opening act. Get ready for a flurry of metaphors. Ready? Okay, here goes:
John is the arrow that points to Jesus. John is the moon to Jesus’ sun, reflecting the light of the one to come. John gets the soil ready to be planted with Jesus’ words. John is the harbinger of the coming messiah. John is the advance scout, the voice, the witness.
While Jesus teaches us how to be more like him, the person we, as followers of Christ, really end up being more like is John. We are witness to Christ’s presence in the world. We are advance scouts for the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. We are arrows pointing to God. I’m not saying that we should put on hairy shirts and eat locusts. But we could all take a page from John’s book and do as Gabriel predicts: “Be filled with the Holy Spirit…go forth before the Lord…make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Dear God, you shine with all the brilliance of your glory. Help me to reflect some of your light, that others may see you shining in me. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, keeping awake and alert for the revelation of your love for this world.