a biblical reflection, based on Luke 3.1-6, for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, December 6, 2015
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee…the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
Luke the evangelist, alone among the New Testament gospel writers, places John the Baptist within a chronological context. Sometime around the year 30 of the Common Era, John appeared on the stage of human history.
Without a photograph or audiotape, we can’t know how John looked or the sound of his voice. Nevertheless, an immediate image for me is…
…the actor Michael York’s portrayal in Franco Zefferelli’s 1977 (yes, I know I’m dating myself!) movie miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth. York’s John was blue-eyed with an oval face framed by unruly, straight hair, pale-hued with smooth skin on a fairly fleshy, though muscular frame with a bit of a blood-blush of exertion having run from bank to bank of the River Jordan, shouting, in a proper, resonantly pleasing English accent, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness.”
My image……is a man with eyes like incandescent coals, skin weathered and withered, darkened by a life lived outdoors exposed to a wretched wilderness sun, stretched tautly across a lean, sinewy frame, camel hair clothing crawling with vermin, hair matted and dirty, facial features contorted grotesquely, screaming, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness!”
This image, for me, matches John’s demanding message of repentance. John called the people to turn away from their sins and return to God. In this, they readied themselves to behold the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy of valleys filled, mountains lowered, crooked paths straightened, rough places leveled, which was nothing else, nothing less than preparation for the coming of God’s kin_dom.
What an unsettling vision! And inviting…
Illustration: John the baptizer, free-hand drawing
 From the Greek, metanoia, literally, “a change of mind”, in which mind encompasses more than memory and the faculty of thought, but also the heart, which, as a central organ of the body, ancient peoples considered the locus of consciousness, thus, including the will, the capacity to choose.
 See Isaiah 40.3-5
 Since the year 2000 (for that is the earliest I can recall), I regularly have used the word “kin_dom” (in which, rather than “kindom”, I retain the underscore to emphasize the absence of the “g”), employed for many decades by Christian feminist thinkers and writers as a less monarchical, imperial, and masculine, and more relational and inclusive alternative to “kingdom.”