Friends, today’s Gospel presents John the Baptist as a revolutionary.
Advent is best understood as a preparation for a revolution. The liturgical readings for this time of the year—focusing on Isaiah, John the Baptist, Mary, and Jesus—positively crackle with energy and electricity. When we seek to understand them on their own terms and in the context of the time in which they were written, we discover their revolutionary power.
Around the year 30, an alarming figure appeared in the Judean desert, wearing animal skins and eating locusts and wild honey; and his theme hearkened back to the prophet Isaiah: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist was telling his listeners to make ready for the arrival of the God of Israel as a conquering King who would, once again, overthrow the oppressors of his people.
And the revolution arrived in the person of a young Galilean rabbi, whose message was simple and unambiguous: “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus was saying that the new King has arrived and he’s begun his work; so change your lives and come under his lordship.