Can I Get a Witness?

Artwork by Anna L.

by Jim Slatton

John 1:6-8; 19-28

Well, here he is again, old John the Baptist. We get him every year at this time, the forerunner come to prepare the way, the voice crying in the wilderness, the man sent from God.  This year we meet him in the narrative of John the Evangelist who doesn’t give us his wardrobe, diet, or even fiery calls to repentance. Instead we have John the witness, beset by a deputation from the Jews of Jerusalem. They don’t seem very friendly. The evangelist doesn’t explain. What they demand to know is just who he thinks he is and where he gets off going around baptizing people for pity sake. John lets them know right away that he knows he is no Elijah, no prophet. He is just a voice crying in the wilderness. He is certainly not “the one,” he doesn’t see himself as even worthy to tie the shoe laces of that one. But, if they want to know, and even if they don’t, that One who is the life and light of every human being in the universe, not to speak of the universe itself, is abroad among them and they haven’t even recognized him!

Isn’t that the way of it? Later Jesus will ask Phillip, “Have I been so long with you and you didn’t know me?” If the text does nothing but tease us into really taking a hard look around us for the word made flesh here and now, in this the only time we have and the only lives we will ever have, then maybe it will have served its Advent mission once again. If you catch a glimpse you are obliged, like John, to become a witness, in the proper way, of course.

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