Tag Archives: John the Baptist

Roadbuilders (3rd Sunday in Advent)

For the third week of Advent, we look at John the Baptist, the great roadbuilder for God. But the great roadbuilder was imprisoned and beginning to question what he had once believed: that Jesus was the Messiah. How did he … Continue reading

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Wide Angle: The Kingdom Comes

When we read the Gospels, it is helpful to remember that Israel was an occupied country. Its terror alert was always at red, and that the occupation forces and their collaborators in the government were constantly on the lookout for … Continue reading

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Wide Angle: The Kingdom Arrives

In first-century Israel, there was no king – at least, no king descended from David. But people were looking for such a king to come. Apocalyptic books like the ones I mentioned in the last post had stirred people up … Continue reading

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What’s He Doing Here? Why John the Baptist Shows Up at Christmastime

Religious people can be odd. Saints can be downright strange. If there are any contemporary saints trending on Twitter or YouTube, it is more likely because of the weird things they say and do than in spite of them.

During the third week in Advent Season, the Common Lectionary’s Gospel readings are all about John the Baptist, whose life is celebrated each year in preparation for Christmas. If one of the qualifying marks of sainthood is strangeness – and such a case could be made – John must be at the head of the class.

He was born to aged parents. Were his birth to occur today, we would call it a miracle of modern science. When it occurred, friends and family simply called it a miracle. At some point, John moved from his Judean countryside home to the rugged desert between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. His diet was odd – he ate locusts and honey. His wardrobe was odd – he wore camel hair clothing. His life work was odd – he dunked people in the Jordan River for the forgiveness of sins.

John’s was a strange life and also a strange death. When he stuck his prophetic nose into the king’s so-called private affairs, the king cut it off. Well, not just his nose but his whole head. The king only did this because his stepdaughter – at her mother’s request – put him up to it.

Even John’s burial was unusual. His grieving friends had to go to the authorities – not the coroner but (quite possibly) the executioner – to request his body. As far as we know that body still rests in some ancient grave, absent its blessed head.

Why is this man, so odd in life and in death, renowned among Christians? Continue reading


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ADVENTure: A Time to Rethink Your Life

Research shows most people don’t respond when a fire alarm rings. Instead of leaving a building immediately, they stand around and wait for more information. In 1985, a fire broke out in the stands of a soccer match in England. When the television footage was examined, it showed fans took a long time to react. They didn’t move towards the exits until it was too late. 56 people died.

Research also shows that when we do move, we tend to follow old habits. For example, most people try to exit through the same door they entered, even when a nearer exit is available. A fire in the Beverly Hills Supper Club in Kentucky left 177 people dead. Forensic experts believed that many of the victims tried to go out the way they came in, even though there were fire exits. They got caught in a bottleneck and couldn’t get out it time.

What is there for us today in this strange prophet’s ancient message? I’ll mention three things. First, there is a fire coming, a fire of judgment and a time of change, and John sounds the alarm. That warning is at the heart of the Christian gospel and our hearts tell us it is true. Don’t try to escape it by going back the way you came. There is a nearer door, the only one that works: Jesus. Go through him. He once said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved…” (John 10:9). Go to him. Join him. Ask him to take you in. Continue reading

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ADVENTURE: Mission Inevitable (Luke 3:1-6)

Between now and Christmas, I will post audio of the Adventure sermons from 2018. The series is meant to prepare worshipers to celebrate Christ’s birth and anticipate his return. This first sermon finds striking similarities between the world in our … Continue reading

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