In the gospel reading for today we are reminded of a surprising (to the world) choice, by God, to deliver the call to repentance and preparation for the coming of the Messiah. His name was John. People knew him locally as the Baptist. Some would say of him that he was a religious eccentric. Others, less kind would dismiss him as being simply a flake, a religious fruit cake. He definitely did not seem to be the kind of “How to win friends and influence people” type of personality to usher in the news of the Messiah’s coming. He just doesn’t seem to fit in with shepherds and wise men and the other characters that we traditionally associate with the Christmas story. Yet, this was God’s unlikely servant chosen to herald the spectacular events that would soon follow. A most unlikely promotions man to be sure, but God’s man nevertheless.
From the very beginning everything about John was unique. His mother Elizabeth was related to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. But Mary happened to be a very young girl, indeed almost a child. Most scholars put her probable age at thirteen. It was not unusual for a girl in that day and time to be of childbearing age at such a tender age. Indeed, it is not unheard of even in contemporary America.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, was a woman who was in the golden years of her life. She had never given birth to a child. You would think of her more in the category of grandmother than mother. Yet, she and her aging priest of a husband were the unlikely candidates.
And then comes John – vigorously opposed to the way of life of the religious and political leaders of the time and unafraid to raise his voice against them. A rough and wild looking man – yet chosen to prepare the way for the coming of the Christ. His call is to preparedness, and his call is to you and to me. We are to be prepared to recognize the presence of Christ in the world, and share the good news with others.
Yes, John might be an unexpected and surprising messenger, but perhaps no more surprising than you or me!