A man came, he was sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
to bear witness to the light,
so that everyone might believe
He was not the light
he was to witness to the light…
John witnesses to Him. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me
has passed ahead of me
because He existed before me.’
Jn 1, 6-8; 15 (NJB)
John the Baptist appears. He is to prepare the hearts of the people. He is to witness to Jesus, the Light. He is the last of a long line of prophets who were inspired to share the Word of the Lord to His people.
Prophets spoke God’s living and active Word. They called the people back to the covenant. They expounded Wisdom. They summoned the people to Life. They promised a future hope, the Anointed of God would come.
Isaiah spoke eloquently of that future. One would come who would be Immanuel, God with them. The Spirit of Yahweh would be with Him –the spirt of wisdom and insight, the spirit of consul and power, the spirit of knowledge and fear of Yahweh. (cf Is 11 [NJB]). Isaiah makes a great read for the season of Advent (then notice how many of his images appear on cards.)
The Old Testament ends with the Prophet Malachi who prophesized about John:
Look, I will send you the Prophet Elijah before
the great and awesome day of Yahweh
comes. He will reconcile parents to their children
and children to their parents, to forestall
my putting the country under the
curse of destruction. MI 3, 21-24 (NJB).
John is Elijah. But like Elijah and all the other prophets he only carried a light to reveal the truth. John witnessed to the Light. Jesus the Word was the Light, He was the Life the origin of all that came to be. John understood that he came first to prepare the way for Jesus who had been the origin of this universe and all that came to be. The Light would enlighten the eyes of men and women so that they would have light within. Life would unbind the dead so the dead would have everlasting life.
John has become the first New Testament prophet. He opened the eyes of the people. They saw the Light. Those who believed in Jesus took the Light into the world. And the Light has shone. His disciples had found peace in His Life and they went to the suffering and raised them the grasp of death.
Christmas is a celebration of an event in one place at a particular time. Christmas is the celebration of this multiverse filled with all that has come into being in the Light and the Life.
Father Lawrence Heiney is minister at Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church in Mount Airy.