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A Wild and Crazy Guy

by Julie A. Kanarr

Who was John the Baptist? Any seasoned veteran of children’s sermons can tell you the basics: John was that wild man who showed up in the wilderness wearing strange clothes and eating weird food like honey-covered grasshoppers. He told everybody to repent. He baptized Jesus.

Although the Christian church has designated June 24 as John’s feast day, he may be more familiar to Christian worshippers as that biblical character who shows up every Advent.

In all three years of the Revised Common Lectionary (the list of Scripture readings used by many denominations, including Lutherans), the gospel readings for both the second and third Sunday of Advent focus on John. So who was this wild and crazy guy?

Jesus addresses our enduring curiosity about John, asking, “What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?” and calling John “a prophet and more than a prophet” (Luke 7:24, 26; Matthew 11:7, 9). John has his place in the wilderness, and in the imagination of all who encounter him through the scriptures. The Gospel of John describes John as a “burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35) who fades away when his work is done. The voice of John the Baptist, this intriguing and challenging desert preacher, still echoes in the wilderness, calling for repentance and pointing us to Jesus.

The Rev. Julie A. Kanarr is an ELCA pastor and freelance writer. Ordained in 1990, she serves as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Belfair, Wash.

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