We are now being bombarded by a cascade of advertising, persuading us that we need all kinds of delicious foods and drinks to make us perfectly happy. John the Baptist would think very differently. He leapt for joy in Elizabeth’s womb at the prospect of salvation being close at hand. That joy was very different to the temporary pleasure derived from material goods. He lived his life with the barest of essentials, thus avoiding the distractions which would prevent him from performing the role which his father had prophesied.
“And you, child will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” (Luke 1:76-77)
People flocked to see John, who was unlike their political and religious leaders. Tiberius and Pontius Pilate were cruel, Herod was corrupt and immoral and the priestly family of Annas and Caiphas was notorious for its greed. John’s message was simple. He exhorted his listeners to change their ways to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. He did not call on them to do great things but simply to be content with what they had and to do honest work. It is a message that is as important today for all of us who have enough and who do not need extra luxuries, whose manufacturing may further add to the destruction of the planet.
In a sense John the Baptist closes the Old Testament and opens the New. He has been described as a hinge point.