The RevoLectionary is a lectionary blog written by Irish young adults.

Advent 3: Desperation

John 6-8, 19-28 (NRSV)

The Testimony of John the Baptist

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27 the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

I like to imagine what it would have been like to live just before the arrival of Jesus. It seems impossible to truly do it justice in my head; a time of darkness, despair and calling out to a God who just wasn’t quite ready to make good on his promise. Surely, as humans of the 21st century, we could not know what such crushing, unending waiting is like. Or maybe we do.

Consider the Jewish position of the 1st century BC. They have been waiting for centuries for the Messiah, an individual of the Spirit who would return them to the glory God had promised so long ago. This is where we find them when they approach John the Baptist. Now John was a man strong in the Spirit who held an authority that resounded with the rumbling voice of God-most-high. It seems totally fair he could be compared to Elijah, a saint of renown. John must have just had that quality about him, an electrifying of the air and silvery-sense of the soul that sang “Glory to the Sovereign Lord” in a perfect melody, 24/7. The voices of those sent from the Pharisees to John drip with years and years of hope, excitement and sheer desperation as they ask the question on everyone’s mind:

“Who are you?”

With little prompting in that direction, John shrugs his shoulders and replies –

“I am not the Messiah.”

The crowd probably started grumbling at this point. Well, the question had been asked. Everyone go home. We’ve got more waiting to do. But the waiting wasn’t to be that much longer. The next day, the one who baptised with the Spirit came along and changed the world forever. John had been there, calling out in the wilderness, heralding His coming – the Word becoming flesh. And he had come. And he ministered for 3 years. And then he left again, explaining that he, much like Arnold Schwarzenegger, would be back. And now, we wait.

For much of this time, this waiting is spent in desperation, asking why we wait or what the point of waiting is. Why is the sun setting just one more time when Jesus could make his triumphal return now, when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess? It’s funny, the situation has been flipped but we’re still waiting. God sent his Holy One yet told his newly expanded people that we would have to wait some more. Only this time, he’s given us an advantage, a safe-keeper – the Holy Spirit.

After all, John did say that while he baptised with water, this Mighty One baptised with the Spirit. A fire that guides, loves, comforts and advises. The Great Counsellor. Unlike  John’s contemporaries, we no longer wait in a place where the presence of God is absent - we have been given a part of him as we wait for the greater restoration. We have become like John, men and women of great virtue (although we might not always feel as such) who cry out into the wilderness

Make straight the way of the Lord!

It’s a cry of desperation but also one of acknowledgment. It recognises the agonising wait we must face but also the glory of what will come when it ends.

Make straight the way of the Lord!

Most importantly, it’s a cry that doesn’t take the driver’s seat. We are the harbingers of triumph but also the products of it. This is a sentiment I find I often forget. In my best times I forget the wait at all, no longer noticing the car inching towards to its end destination. With this mindset I do not acknowledge the One who set the car in motion in the first place. At my worst, I try to step on the gas pedal to get it there that little bit faster. John finds the ideal balance point, the one who is waiting but also finds contentment in just that. He is both empowered and humbled in the presence of the Lord, the harbinger and the inheritor. He knows the car will get there eventually. As we move forward this Christmas towards the 25th and the renewal of hope that brings, remember on the 26th when the waiting begins again that the renewal is coming. Don’t give in to desperation. It’s coming.

Make straight the way of the Lord!


Alex Mc Pic.jpg

Alex McElwee

Alex McElwee is a Dublin born student just entering into college as a fresh-faced and bushy-tailed nineteen year old. He hopes to enroll in the UCD arts block in September to study English and Classical Civilisations. Alex has loved writing from a young age, a passion that he likes to use in conjunction with his faith. When you’re not catching him waxing poetically in his notebook you might find Alex reading the works of F. Scott Fitzgerald, drinking coffee by the litre or working out in a suspect warehouse gym.

Advent 4: The Possible Impossible.

Advent 2: Preparation.