"He's coming, so turn around." That's John the Baptizer's[^1] message. It's interesting to me that John is urging those who come to him to get their shit together before Jesus officially comes on the scene. Like, aren't we supposed to get our lives in line with God because Jesus came and taught and loved the world and died and rose again? Not according to John here in Advent.
The gospel writers put the words of Isaiah in the mouth of the Baptizer. John is the one crying out in the wilderness. He says, "Prepare the way of the Lord. Make his paths straight."
His baptism is a baptism of repentance. Using the word repent is tricky because it carries a lot of baggage around with it. You better repent or Jesus'll getcha! It's a Christ-haunted word.[^2] But repent means turn around, or turn away. No big deal. Except when what you're turning away from is your whole culture and everything about it that deals death to God's people.
Last week was all about listening for a God that seems absent, but this week is about moving, turning. Turn away from one thing and turn toward from another. Perhaps God is hard to hear because we're facing away from God.
What are the things we ought to turn away from? Polarized representations of current events? Narratives on all sides of the issues that seek to dominate and bend truth? Blind obedience to our institutions and the people who represent them and act out their power? Power itself?
And we turn toward what? Toward God. Okay, but what does that look like? God is...where? God is with God's people. God is with the disinherited, as Howard Thurman calls them. Get quiet and turn toward them. There is God. And God is speaking.
- [^1]: I like the flatfooted, literal translation. John who? The Baptizer.
- [^2]: Flannery O'Connor in the house.