“What did you go out to see?” (Matthew 11:8). For the third week of Advent, John the Baptist continues to remain in the spotlight. The Gospel this Sunday captures one of the few direct interactions between Christ and John.
The Baptist knows that there is someone coming to fulfill all that he has spoken about, someone is coming who is going to change everything. However, who is the one to come? What are the qualities he will possess and why do John and his contemporaries possess this unwavering confidence that someone important is coming? They were waiting on the edge of their seats for a divine disruption. But why?
For a devout Jewish person during the time of Christ, this would have been a reality that was clear as day. The Hebrew Scriptures consistently speak about this Messiah, this King, this God-man that will be sent by God to set the record straight. This God-man will be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:1), he will be a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 22:18) and David (2 Samuel 7:16), he will heal people of all their ailments (Isaiah 35:5-6), he will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9), and he will suffer greatly for the nations, take on the sin of the world, be killed, but rise victoriously (Isaiah 52-53). The Hebrew Bible ends without an ending. It ends in waiting; waiting for God to disrupt the world order.
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, and it ends stating that before the Lord comes, Elijah will be sent as a messenger (Malachi 3). Someone like Elijah will come to prepare the way for the Lord. So, like Elijah, John the Baptist resides in the desert, wears camel’s hair for clothing and feeds off of locusts and honey. As people who live far removed from this time of expectation and as people who do not have much knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, it can be easily forgotten how strong and common sense-like it was to be waiting for God to interrupt the order of life.
It was normal to be waiting intently. The crowds that flocked to see John the Baptist were looking for someone. They wanted to see and hear about the one to come. They were willing to wait because they so desperately craved to see the divine.
In our world today, we (myself included) do not wait for anything. Whether it is the line at the supermarket or the clothing store, the wait at the restaurant, or the holiday traffic we are always caught up with how to escape waiting. That is why people founded highly successful companies that would help us avoid lines (Amazon, online shopping, etc.), not have to wait to eat (Grubhub, UberEats, etc.), or sit in our car on the highway that has become a parking lot (Waze, Lyft, etc.). Waiting is not about merely learning to be patient though. When humanity waits it is forced to be more attentive to how God is attempting to infiltrate the present moment.
We are under the constant assumption that we should not have to wait for anything. In Advent, God tells us that we must wait. We must learn how to wait for Him to come to us, to disrupt our lives.
This week let us pay heed to the present moment. Let us pay attention to the details that surround waiting for Christ to be born. Let us crave the divine sight of a child who will come to conquer all that is wrong in our lives and in the world. This week let us be willing to wait for God because He is coming so soon.
Allow Him to disrupt your life this week, especially in the moments when you do not want to wait, and you’ll see God as clear as day. His coming was foretold from ancient times and His presence is a radical reality that changes everything when we see it. Let us be in waiting, and let us be divinely disrupted by the God who is love itself.