We are coming closer to Christmas. John the Baptist has appeared! Luke does not describe him as Matthew and Mark do; instead he mentions a number of the rulers and important people of that time, so as to show that the promised Messiah was indeed born into human history. John was unlike other prophets in that he did not preach to the Jewish leaders but to the people, as Jesus himself would do. He made use of the images of Isaiah, who talked about straightening paths, filling valleys in, and lowering mountains to make way for the coming of the Lord. That was a way of saying that making a way for the Lord poses challenges and facing up to wrong-doing.
Satham Sanghera has recently written a controversial book about the British Empire, exposing very uncomfortable facts about the widespread exploitation of the countries under its colonial rule. He has received vitriolic abuse because people cling to the mythologies that make them feel good. John the Baptist likewise must have upset many of his listeners. He did upset Herod, who imprisoned him, and he infuriated Herodias, who brought about his death. That is the penalty many pay for speaking the truth. We can think of those today who are in prison or are killed because they will not remain silent. There is so much that needs to change in our world. Advent is a good time to listen to prophetic voices, telling us what we need to hear.