In my first year of secondary school, there was a woodland behind the school, and in the woodland lived ‘Knocker’. Knocker got the nickname because, as the story goes, he hid in the woods and knocked on the trees to scare people away.
He was different, lived differently, and was shunned, gossiped about and avoided. but looking back, I have no idea what sort of person he actually was. All I knew about him was based on the bias I’d unconsciously built up through stories others had told, regardless of what the truth actually is.
John the Baptist is one who may well have stimulated similar reactions.
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.Matthew 3:4
The point Matthew is making is that John the Baptist was different. In his lifestyle. In his appearance. And in his message.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”Matt 3:2-3
This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
For 400 years – the period between the Old and New testaments, there had been a perceived silence from God. No prophets, no message. Then from the wilderness comes – the literal wilderness John lived in, and the metaphorical wilderness of this silence, comes a voice saying:
“Prepare the Way!
The Promised One is coming.
Something is about to happen. To change. To transform.
Are you ready?“
John the Baptist, in his difference and diversity, is a trailer for the God who is about to do something different. Radical. Revolutionary. To come and dwell with us, as Immanuel, a baby who changes everything.
In doing something different God doesn’t thrown the past out with the bathwater, but takes the story into a new chapter, where prophecy is fulfilled, when the promises of God are made known differently, where the message of love and grace is repacked and transformed – into a living, walking, breathing human being.
In Christ, God did something different.
And still today, God is at work, moving among us many ways.
Known and unknown.
Expected and unexpected.
Making Room for diversity and difference.
Because in God’s story,
When God reigns,
There is room – for difference.
God makes room for you. For me. For us. for all.
Those like us,
Those different to us.
Those like John the Baptist. Those like ‘knocker’ who are different to us, seem strange, unpredictable or unusual.
So In our story,
Will we let God reign?
Will we prepare the way to make room for the difference of God?
The difference of one another?
The transformation that comes from embracing the radical and unexpected of God and God’s kingdom.
Will we make room for difference?