On the third week of Advent, we honor the patriarchs:
Who are Patriarchs?
The Bible gives us many patriarchs of our faith in the Old Testament, but for the purpose of Advent, we will highlight just two in the New Testament. And it may not be who you first think of:
John the Baptist
“Your prophet John the Baptist was witness to the true as a burning and shining light. May we, your servants, rejoice in his light, and so be led to winter to him who is the Lord of our coming kingdom, Jesus our Savior and King of the ages.”
– Father William Saunders, Dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Sterling, VA
One of the high points of John the Baptist in scripture happened before he was born! When his aging mother, Elizabeth, carried him in her womb and met up with her cousin Mary, the Virgin who carried Jesus, he leapt in her womb. Clearly, there was a special bond.
The Bible tells us no more about the relationship of these two cousins.
- Did the cousins hang out?
- Did they just attend the same holiday gatherings?
- Did they know one another at all?
- Or did they know each other on a level we won’t know till we get to heaven?
Scripture tells us John wanders in the wilderness, dressed in fur, eating locusts and honey and proclaiming the coming of the Messiah!
Is it just me? Or does he sound a little crazy? I wonder what his parents thought. Were they agreeable that he responded so dramatically to Christ? How would my parents have reacted if I was like John the Baptist? OR, if one of my kids decided to act like a barbarian in the wilderness, would I include it in my Christmas card? On my Facebook page? Or would I be rushing him to the Behavioral Health Center?
And yet, at Advent, we are encouraged to honor John the Baptist. Because his crazy commitment to Christ matters.
The Virgin Mary at Advent
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Wow! When I got pregnant, no angel clued me in, I got morning sickness and had to figure it out on my own! I cannot imagine how excited this pregnant mama must have been!
In Protestant circles, there is little discussion of Mary, but she plays a significant role in Jesus’ life and in our faith, especially at Advent. Mary Madden, Educational Director of San Rafael Catholic Church in San Diego explains:
“Mary is, in some sense, ADVENT PERSONIFIED. God prepared her from the first moment of her life and conception to be a worthy Mother of His Son. Mary became the first person in all of history to receive and accept Christ as her Savior [in utero!]. She accepted this important calling knowing that there would be many who would not understand and probably judge her. Mary totally surrendered herself to God.”
Mary waited. For nine months. For the birth of a promised Savior and King—a birth that was surprisingly humble. She had been prepared her whole life to be the Mother of God–to raise this child in the humble environment that God provided. With a mother’s heart, she watched him mature into a man as she encouraged others to follow him–after all, she had the inside track! She waited and she watched, I can only imagine her pride, as he grew into a respected Rabbi. Then watched in horror as he was betrayed, tortured and brutally killed. I cannot stand to see my own children suffer even the normal ups and downs of life, so I simply cannot imagine Mary’s pain…
At Advent, how can we follow Mary’s example of waiting and watching? How can we encourage others to follow Him?
For Advent Guide Week Three, click here.