I was recently down in Des Moines (,Iowa) at a comedy club and things worked out exactly as they should have. They had an opening act that made us all laugh and then had a disappointing second act. But the main comedian was hilarious. It worked a lot better than Marshalltown High School football games where the team was awful but the marching band was awesome.
This time of year makes us aware of some opening acts. There's Mary in the Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadeloupe. The Immaculate Conception reminds us that Mary, in order to be a vessel for the savior of the world, must have been uniquely gifted with freedom from original sin. With the celebration of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the church remembers Mary's appearance to Juan Diego which had such a profound effect on the Mexican people. Mary's message to build a church in Guadeloupe, Mexico bridged the divide between church and society.
Today's opening act is John the Baptist. We hear a snippet from this fiery prophet who preached repentance and being prepared. He engendered a great deal of faith from the Jewish people of Jesus time and built up quite a base.
Yet, both of these opening acts have one thing in common: both understood that they were preparing the way for someone greater, a son and a cousin. The mark of a good prophet, after all, is to point to something larger than yourself, to God, and help people to prepare for it. This is, in many ways, what the first reading was all about. While the first part of that reading emphasized that the bad will be punished, the second parted seemed to indicate a return to primordial Eden.
"the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,"
And, despite the fact that this is a beautiful scene of cooperation, there's a part of me that wonders if this was code for different tribes. Like, if today, we said,
the bear will be a guest of the viking
and the hawkeye shall lie down with the gopher
the cyclone and the sooner shall browse together.
Perhaps the prophet was saying that tribes that normally don't get along will be able to. One thing that Christians have seen in this is that a little child that will guide them. As Christians, we believe that even Isaiah pointed us to the Christ child.
During this time of opening acts for him, dont' get lost. They're just here to remind us how they prepared for him. We prepare for him by going to reconciliation and by repairing relationships with family and friends that have been lost throughout this year. We also need to find time amidst the chaos of this time of year to make straight our path in prayer, to not let the opening acts of this season of gift giving and Christmas parities distract us from what really matters, the coming of Christ