John the Baptist was a sort of “rock star” for the people of Israel of his time. He was weird. He was fearless. And he was wise. People came to him from all over – some to just see what the fuss was about, others to seek some of that wisdom. They knew, from his preaching, that something significant was about to happen. Today, they come and ask him what they are supposed to do in light of this “Significant Something.”
His answer challenges them. He recognizes that they might not be behaving properly, and he offers them the remedy for that in new, better actions. People are to give to the needy from their excess; tax collectors are to stop defrauding people; and soldiers are to be kind and satisfied with their pay. In other words, “People, don’t be jerks.”
What would we ask of John if we went there? “What are we to do?” What would John tell me – tell us? Are we as excited to encounter that Significant Something in our lives? If so, what should our lives look like when that Something arrives?
I have a feeling that John’s advice to us would be the same: “Don’t be a jerk.”
How does this look in 21st-century Dundalk and Edgemere? What are the things that occupy us as modern-day people, tax collectors, and soldiers? How does “Don’t be a jerk” translate into my life?
What about this: as consumers, maybe we don’t give in to the urge to purchase the newest, hottest, flashiest items as soon as they come out? Rather, we can delay our gratification and experience something that has been lost in our culture: real anticipation. Then we are less and less consumed by our desires but filled more and more with longing for those things that truly bring meaning and peace into our lives.
Or, how about, as keyboard soldiers on Facebook or other social media, we refrain from bashing one another – from nasty, thoughtless comments on this news story or that person’s rant. Then, we find that calm, mellow peace that used to exist before our iPhones dinged and told us that President Trump has tweeted or our ex-husband just posted a pic of his new car.
Or this one: we look at others as people just like us – with hopes and dreams and all sorts of good intentions, regardless of their race, religion, or country of origin. Assume that people mean the best for and about us when they speak and act and just be kind to them. This will lead us to a view of the world as God looks at us, His children, and we can see more light around us than we ever thought was there.
This is what Advent really looks like. This is how people live when they expect that Significant Something that is coming upon us. “The Lord is near,” St. Paul tells us. Do we really believe that? Do we really believe it? If so, then don’t be a jerk! There are too many of them in the world already. Let’s be the opposite of that – everywhere we are: in our consumption and purchasing; in our on- and offline interactions; and in our hearts for others. Be kind. Be like Jesus.
After all, He is that Significant Something that we are awaiting. The joy of the approach of Christmas is meant to remind us of the joy of the approach of Christ’s coming to us in glory. If you knew He was coming tomorrow, would you have bought that newest iPad? Would you have berated that lady on Facebook? Would you have mocked or criticized the refugees or migrants seeking asylum here? Or would you have simply been kind. It really is that easy.
The Eucharist is meant to feed us and shape us into people who love and live like Jesus. His presence in the reason for rejoicing. John the Baptist knew this first – and he took the opportunity to remind people that Jesus was looking for their love and kindness too. Let’s listen to the call to be kind today, so our eyes may be open to see the Significant Something on its way – and all the significant somethings we encounter everyday.