This is Rome’s interpretation of John the Baptist. It makes me laugh. I’m not saying it’s not beautiful. It is. That white marble and those soaring muscles and raised hand are beautiful. It just does not resonate with my view of John the Baptist. Especially in Advent.
The john I know is messy. He seemed, in a close reading of his weds, to be perhaps a bit insane or at least on the edge of insanity. Any prophet would be. Should be. The prophet is caught in the vortex of two worlds and is not ever able to step into one or the other of them. He or she is always stuck between them like those episodes of Star Trek when people get lost while traveling between the ship and a planet in the particle beam thingy.
Prophets are stuck in the no-man’s land between a world they can see and world they can imagine. Some of our prophets in the church today are caught in between the church they can see, and the church they can imagine. It is a lonely place even if it has dramatic views.
What would Advent be without John the Baptist? With his hair shirt and locus breath he was messy and may well have had serious mental issues. He may have been a first century monastic from the Essene Community. For all we know, Jesus might have also. They were all a bit crazy. Being able to see how things might be without manipulation, cruelty, violence, greed, hypocrisy – being able to imagine that world or that church would make anyone insane.
Advent is not supposed to be lovely. We make it so because that is what the church thinks is its job. But Advent, for me at least, needs a bit of crazy to feel authentic. The only job is to determine what your flavor of crazy for Jesus is. And then let go enough to wig out just a bit. And in doing so you might just participate in the co-creativity of the “new earth” God talks so much about. Or if not, you will at least be interesting.