The first week of Advent focuses on the Lord’s second coming at the end of time. The second and third weeks of Advent focus on the appearance of John the Baptist proclaiming the first coming of Jesus. Let us look at what the Baptist has to say to us. We know from the Gospel of Luke that John was from a priestly family because Zechariah his father was a priest. Based on some interesting details in scripture and the discoveries of Qumran some scholars speculate that John the Baptist was an Essene and that Zechariah and Elizabeth gave their young son over to the Essene community in Qumran to be brought up in this monastic community.
The Essenes rejected the world and created a monastic community in the desert near the Dead Sea waiting for two messiahs one kingly messiah and one priestly messiah. They practiced ritual washings or baptisms daily that they believed gave their followers purification from sins and imparted the Spirit of the Lord. It seems that John the Baptist may have been kicked out of this community because he came to believe similar but different teachings He went into the desert near the mouth of the Jordan river and started baptizing people for the forgiveness of their sins. He identified himself with Isaiah’s voice in the desert crying out to prepare the way of the Lord.
John preached only one baptism of repentance not many and pointed to Jesus as the one messiah both kingly and priestly who would give a new baptism that truly imparted the Holy Spirit. Although John was indeed in the desert keeping his monastic vows he set himself up to preach at a major crossroads for trade. People would have passed by this area near Jericho from all over the world coming even as far as from Europe and Eastern Asia.
They heard the preaching of John and were convicted of their sins and submitted to his baptism even though he did no miracle. However, many of the Sadducees and Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders of the time ,did not submit to his preaching or get baptized. Isaiah 40 speaks of making straight the way of the Lord by knocking down hills and filling in valleys. This refers to the ancient practice of preparing a road for a visiting king. The king John is preparing for is Jesus Christ who will not only give a new law of Love to Israel and judge the living and the dead but also will execute his rule over the nations through a new kingdom on earth which is the Church.
What do all these interesting historical details mean for us?
First, this Advent we are called to also hear the voice of John the Baptist calling us to repent of our sins. We are called to make a moral inventory or a spiritual check up so we can see what God wants us to change. Change is hard but we know that we have the grace of God to help us.
Second, we are called to repentance or changing our life in order to make way for the new ruler in our life: Jesus the King. Jesus rules in our hearts through the Holy Spirit he gives us in Christian Baptism.
Let us make way for our true ruler Jesus by consecrating our lives and families to his Sacred Heart.
We will not regret it.