The Word in a Very Small Room

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?" And Jesus answered them, "Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me."—Matthew 11:2-6

A voice cries:
"In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."
—Isaiah 40:3-5

By tradition and history of the church, John the Baptist is associated with Advent. At the turn of the church year, the end and the beginning, he stands, one foot in each, to announce the coming of the Lord. John is the image of Advent par excellence: pre-eminent personage, spokesperson, figure, and voice. He is the very personification of the season, as seen in these two passages.

The words from Isaiah 40 are good news of repentance and return, first commended to a people captive and captivated by Babylon. John, in turn, is captured by the word. There he finds his identity and vocation. Surely he studied this text long and hard, praying from it, and being thereby comforted and provoked. Here is a passage he lives with and so lives in. John finds himself in the word. He fills it with flesh, gives it body and voice, and so becomes the very incarnation of the text.

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