Advent 10: John the saint and John the Baptist.

“I bet John the Baptist wasn’t a fan of Christmas,” I said to Saint John.

Nancy and John stopped and stared at me.

The three of us had been walking quietly through the mall. I’d been thinking about John’s conversation with the community leader. I remembered that John the Baptist was mentioned right after Nicodemus in one of the stories about Jesus. And I started thinking about John’s rustic approach to food and dress and social structures. It seemed completely at odds with everything we saw and smelled as we walked through the mall.

“John wasn’t a grinch you know,” John said. Which made Nancy and I stare at him.

“John was one of the most positive people I ever knew,” John said. “And one of the most humble. He couldn’t have been a fan of Christmas, since that wasn’t invented as a Holliday for centuries. But he was completely sold out to the advent, to the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah.”

“But he seems like an irrelevant wacko,” I said.  “The kind who stands in the parking lot and hollers at passing cars.”

John laughed at me. “You read all the time about the importance of focus. John’s life was built around getting everyone ready for the start of the festivities. Like one of your minimalists, he trained himself to eat the food available in the wild, honey and locusts. He contented himself with durable, obtainable clothing. And then he spent his time on preaching and baptizing.”

“So I’ll give you the focus,” I said. “But it still sounds like the shouting guy.”

“Don’t use your metaphors,” John said. “Use his. More than reacting to him, people responded to him and his message of a new life, a new hope, relief from the nagging burden of not measuring up to the human rules. And when his followers got jealous of the growing crowds around Jesus, John pointed them to a wedding.”

IMG_1518.JPGJohn stopped. I realized that we were in front of Louie’s Tux Shop. He pointed to the group of guys standing inside. Everyone was a little uncomfortable, facing one guy who had to be the groom.

Everyone but the guy in the torn jeans. He stood behind the groom, helping him try on jackets. When they found the right one, the jeans guy helped the rest of the guys find their suits, their accessories. When everyone was ready, it was hard to tell who had the biggest smile, the  groom, or his friend.

John turned to me. “John said that he was the friend. His job was to get everything ready for the groom. His success came when he could get out of the way, when the crowds all showed up for the wedding.”

We started walking again.

“I’m not sure whether he would have loved Christmas, but John loved Jesus.” John’s voice cracked a little. “And he was thrilled when he helped me put on a tux.”