How did John the Baptist gather followers?
Was it his stylish clothing (note to scruffy Suzie)?
His aspirational lifestyle?
His prosperity message?
His food choices?
There is nothing attractional about the outward appearance of John the Baptist.
He wore camel hair clothes. The soft down in camel’s hair is much sought after and makes bespoke bolts of very expensive fabric. The outer hair is much coarser and possibly smellier. My dad sent me a stuffed camel from Tunisia when I was small, it was made from camel skin with the hair still attached. A trinket from a Souk. John t B, although it would suit some to think of him in the rich suit of downy camel hair, was probably wearing something akin to a sackcloth, instead of hessian – camel hair.
For John clothes were not important (wow Suzie write on!) they protected his body from the elements, kept him warm at night and cool during the day. His focus was not on his style of clothing but on the one who was to come.
He had a belt, now in Isaiah 11 also a passage for this week, the Messiah is described as having a belt:
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist
Having a belt meant he was a worker, men in those times put on belts to hold up their flowing garb so they could work. His work was that of preaching in the desert.
Not on a beach with the sunset in the background, or a convention centre in the middle of the city with coffee and air conditioning.
In the desert – Hot in the day and cold in the night.
And then we get a glimpse of his diet – locusts and wild honey. Sounds like a bushtucker trial, doesn’t it?
Why would anyone eat locusts? Why would you risk stings by gathering wild honey?
Well, John t B, didn’t care about food. He cared that his body got enough food to do his work but he didn’t care what it was. Because he was not focused on a technically correct amuse bouche that looks real pretty. He was not focused on making a banquet, or making alioli from scratch. He was focused on the one who was to come.
When I repeat that sentence, I am aware that Jesus was already born, they were contemporaries but John had to start preaching first so that he could proclaim Jesus’ arrival.
Now it is advent, just before Christmas and our minds are filled with cake, pies and puddings, presents, and lists endless lists.
But I encourage you to STOP
STOP what you are doing now and just BE, be what God wants you to be. Be a worshiping person, praising his name.
Stop doing the tree, the decorations, stop the shopping as there is going to be a famine next day, stop the opulent spending.
Read Matthew 3:4-15
Read it with panpipes in the background or even my choice of music for today – scrolls of suffering
Read the words out loud, because this is not about aspirational, attractive living, it is about giving, sharing, living your life how God wants you to. Listening for God in your every day, not when it suits, all the time.
Filling our hearts with the gifts of joy, peace, love and hope rather than our bellies with endless mincepies, rather than emptying our purse to put presents under the tree.
John the Baptist gathered disciples around him, despite the hardship, because his inward beauty shone in the desert brighter than the sun. And he was harsh not just to himself but to those around him.
Jesus is coming back again, prepare for his arrival this advent season, be prepared.
Song tunes going through my head today: