“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
While we often think of Advent as a time of waiting, another less emphasized theme that runs throughout this season’s liturgies is the theme of recognition. Yes, we are waiting for the Messiah, preparing the way, but will we recognize the Messiah’s arrival when it happens?
What makes John the Baptist a great model is that he can recognize the Messiah because he knows that he is NOT the Messiah, even when others try to make him such. He knows that he is a voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way for the Messiah. John knows what his role is, and he knows that he does not have to do everything. His job is to prepare the way, and also to recognize the Messiah. Remember in the Visitation gospel that John moved in Elizabeth’s womb when the pregnant Mary arrives. He was the first to recognize the Messiah.
In the reading from Isaiah 61, we learn how to recognize the Messiah by hearing how the Messiah’s arrival is proclaimed:
“[God] has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.”
As we work for justice for LGBT people in the church and society, our job is to recognize and celebrate when God’s saving power and justice are made real in the world. While we may sometimes grow wearisome of being voices crying in the wilderness, we should remember that we are not called to save the world, but to prepare the way for the One who does the saving. Our job, like John’s, is simply to testify:
“He [John] came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.