Sunday, December 4
It’s beard-growing time again ! No, not so I can play Santa. It’s for that mysterious wild-man John the Baptizer. He’s back for another round.
From the descriptions of John’s appearance and habits found in the gospels, we can tell that John was a nazirite. The rules for being a nazirite are laid out in the Old Testament Book of Numbers, chapter 6: 1-21. The reason someone might choose to become a nazirite is to fulfill a sacred promise, a vow, to God. All their days as nazirites they are holy to the LORD. (Numbers 6:8) So, being a nazirite meant being seriously holy.
The most famous nazirite in the Bible (other than John the Baptizer) is Samson (Judges, chapters 13-16). You would probably remember Samson most for the way Delilah seduced him and cut off his long hair, making him weak. Samson was not a faithful example.
But John the Baptizer did not falter in his faithfulness, as Samson did. Rather, John lived and died in his integrity before God. He preached that people must repent of their sins, and he offered to dip, or baptize, them in water as a sign of their repentance and of God’s forgiveness.
Matthew reports John’s preaching thus:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.”
To members of religious groups who came from Jerusalem to hear him, John delivered a very tough message:
“You children of snakes ! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’ ; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
(Matthew 3:7 – 10)
In other words, “Your ethnic heritage is worthless in God’s sight: your only hope of avoiding destruction is to be fruitful for God’s sake.”
John’s next act of faithfulness was to point away from himself, toward Jesus, who was on his way to be baptized and begin his ministry. John selflessly declared, “one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:11)
Maybe your vow will not include growing a beard.
But will you do anything, this Advent season, as a sign of your commitment to God ?
Every year, we hear moaning from religious people about how commercial Christmastime has become. Every year, we hear grousing from religious people about remembering “the reason for the season.”
What if we were to take a serious vow to “make God’s paths straight” in our lives, this Advent ?
Here are two small suggestions:
† Make your preparations for Christmas... Christ-like. The world is rushing madly to impress people and to revel in pleasure… but Christ gave himself. Let us give ourselves for others. “There’s No Present Like the Time”
† Carefully examine your way of life, and correct whatever the Lord would find to be ‘crooked.’
By the way, if you want it, our church offers baptism. We don’t necessarily have to go down to Boone Run, but we can baptize you.