This week, we meet John the Baptist in the wilderness where he is helping us get ready for Jesus to come and save the world (including us). He's wearing camel's hair, eating locusts, and "proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."
Now, I know it's the end of the week, and we're all tired, but humor me for a minute while we look at a little biblical Greek. I promise, we're going somewhere good.
What we read in English is: "proclaiming a baptism of repentance FOR the forgiveness of sins." But in the original Greek, before our messy translations get in the way, it says that John was "proclaiming a baptism of repentance INTO the forgiveness of sins."
Instead of telling people they needed to get baptized in order to receive forgiveness, John was baptizing people into the forgiveness that was already available to them. John was welcoming them into God's reality of undeserved mercy. John was calling them to turn toward this undeserved grace.
I wonder: How do we turn ourselves toward the forgiveness that is already there for us? How can we reorient our thoughts and actions to acknowledge the mercy and love that surround us? What difference does it make in our lives if we believe that our truest home is in the God who has always loved us? Might we be better prepared for Jesus' eruption in our world and the dawning of a new era of justice, peace, and love?
All of this reminds me of turning into my grandma's driveway. When I make that turn and see the porch light on, I know that inside there is always homemade pimento cheese at the very least, if not a much grander feast. And more importantly, I know that inside, I will remember who I am, and I will know how much love has always surrounded me.
Not everyone is so lucky with home. Sometimes home is hard. But in the best cases, a visit home nourishes, heals, and sends us back out, ready to face the world, remembering who we are and whose we are.
John the Baptist invites us to turn into the drive and to know that behind God's porch light is forgiveness beyond our wildest imaginations.
As Quinn Caldwell says in our Advent devotional book, "All I Really Want," this is "good news for just about everybody this Christmas, whether you're headed home for the holidays or have no home to speak of, trapped far from home or planning to host the gathering, or looking forward to or dreading whatever reunions are in your imminent future. Because all that we ask of home that it can't deliver, all that we depend on it for that it disappoints us in, all that we need and it will never be able to deliver? Your home can't deliver it, but God can, and the porch light is on."
So, dear ones, turn into the drive. Prepare the way. Know how welcome you are into God's home of forgiveness. Feel the love that has always surrounded you. And know, that there is only more to come as we approach the Advent of our Lord.
Peace be with you.