Advent IV

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

You may be familiar with the symbols four the Gospels. They are found In the New Testament – Namely, the four living creatures in the revelation of St John, “The first was like a lion, and the second like a calf, and the third had the face of a man, and the fourth was like a flying eagle.”

John describes these in order which the Gospels seemingly were written – first Mark, then Matthew, Luke and John.

Matthew’s symbol is a calf, because that is the symbol of sacrifice – and because his Gospel focuses on Priesthood and prophecy. Luke’s symbol is that of a man, because of his emphasis on the humanity of Christ. John’s symbol is the eagle – because of his vision and spiritual comprehension.

And as for Mark’s Gospel, the lion brings with it the preaching of John the Baptist. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” We may ask what wilderness voice is most impressive? It is the lions – The king!

John the Baptist is like Mark’s lion in many ways. He lives in the desert. He shows independence, a lordly dignity, vigor in appearance an utterance. His message is nothing if not fierce.

What are we considering is the idea of John as the predecessor of Christ, paving the way if you will? The Old Testament has two prophesies pointing to John’s ministry. The first is Malachi, describing John as a minister and a herald. This is sited by all four of the evangelists, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”

Only John’s Gospel, however, quotes the Baptist as identifying that prophecy with himself, and claiming the endorsement of Isaiah. We have heard this in this morning’s Gospel. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.”

As you know, Advent is the season that we wait and prepare for our Lord. There is within it the hint of a second advent – when the time and space will end when Christ will come to be our judge. But Advent focuses mainly on the historic.

In that sense Advent has long since come about. Yet there is also an inward and spiritual Advent – One that is in the offing for those whom Christ is touching now.

The most important thing that can happen to us is rebirth in Christ. That begins with our personal Advent: Jesus comes to us. However it is a truer fact that he is always there, and we must come to him. The Advent-Tide of our Spirits is that period between our awareness of him, and his coming to us.

The Advent Calendar recovers two things each year. One is the coming of Christ in history, beginning with his birth. The other is the coming of Christ to each of us – resulting in our re-birth. Each Advent is a rehearsal in its truest sense. We are given the re-run of a drama that is always good and always true. It takes us once again through this haunting season of anticipation.

Now for the larger significance of our test; “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Neither Jew nor Christian can think of thing of this world as wilderness – not while there is hope of a savior who can show and lead the way.

Yet without Christ our world is indeed a wilderness, it is a desert in the sense of there being no life – and little hope of finding any. It is a desert in the sense that we are alone in a vast expanse that even with us has no meaning.

The idea of wilderness attaches itself wherever life is hard or cruel or uncertain or out of order. Our wilderness is the world of natural calamity – of pain, suffering, sickness and death. It is also the world of spiritual calamity – of sin, injustice, fraud and dishonor. We need to be saved by these, lest we trust no one!

If we are to be saved, we have got at the same time to be Jews and Christians. This is to say, we must find God first in the Old Testament, then find him in the new.

There are no answers in the religions of the East. They get out of the wilderness, by looking for God within. They have a God that has no meaning, and to that point, never did exist. The morals are good, but they have no substance.

Likewise with the paganism of the West; None have room for God; none give the ultimate meaning or personal salvation. As with Minerva, who sprang full grown from Jupiter’s brow, there is not an iota of truth or goodness in them.

God’s answer is Jesus Christ. Our answer is his acceptance as our Savior and our King. He not only gives meaning to life, but he is life! It is meet and right, then that we should give him worship and adoration. Like John the Baptist, by decreasing in ourselves we are given increase in him.