The Third Sunday of Advent | Ben Curtis

Sunday, December 16

Psalms 63.1-8, 98, 103
Isaiah 13.6-13
John 3.22-30
Hebrews 12.18-29

“The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice . . . He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3.29-30)

The initial home of John the Baptist was the wilderness—that vast, desolate, silent place where all sounds are magnified. In Scripture, the wilderness was the place where God transported people to re-shape them. In the wilderness, John the Baptist had learned his specialness (i.e., gift and calling) and his smallness (i.e., a single cog in the stream of salvation history).

Both of these learnings, specialness and smallness, came through his fine-tuned ears: John the Baptist had learned how to listen. When his disciples ask him a question about Jesus—thinking John may be struggling with being edged out of the picture—John replies with the image of wedding festivities. “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.”

This is an unexpected turn. The ascetic, judgmental John the Baptist is confessing the note of joy and goodness that the presence of Jesus brought to him.

John the Baptist, the prototype of penitence and waiting in Advent, has found a new home. That new home is wherever he hears the voice of Jesus, a voice that has taken up residence in his heart.

Hearing that voice, now inside him, brings specialness and smallness. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Our ego, trimmed down to size by preposterous grace, now is small enough to carry around that voice of joy everywhere.

Ben Curtis
Professor, School of Religion

To download a digital copy of the 2012 Advent Guide, put out by Belmont’s School of Religion, click here.

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