Once again, this season of waiting presents to us the figure of John the Baptist. Why does John always appear before Christmas?  Why is he so important in Advent?
Israel was a country proud of its prophets.  They had great and unforgettable prophets, men who brought them God’s message in times when they needed consolation, inspiration or reminders.  The people did not always believe the prophets but they were happy to have them around since they knew God anointed these men.
In the time of Jesus, there has not been a prophet for about 400 years. The prophetic voice was silent, dead. All of a sudden, John the Baptist came and spoke on behalf of the Lord. This ignited the people’s hope that God was present.
What important traits do we find in John? First, John denounced evil. He was courageous in confronting wrong even if it meant shaking people from their satisfied condition and hurting their feelings. His stinging and harsh words were intentionally directed to provoking people to seriously consider their sins.
Second, John announced the way out of evil. He was not a negative speaker, dwelling on faults and bringing out guilt.  His denunciation led to an announcement of what could be done to change.  This was a prophet of conversion, whose intention was not to shame people but to rouse in them hope for a better life.
Lastly, John introduced the Lord.  After making people conscious of their sins and inviting them to change, he then brought them before Jesus. John was not the center, Jesus was. And his actions and words pointed people to the Lord. He said: “Someone is coming who is mightier. I am not worthy to carry his sandals” (Mt. 3:11).
If we know how to care, to love, to have concern, we are called to be prophets like John. We too are called to denounce or correct actions and words that hurt the people around us. This may not be easy but this is a real responsibility. Again like John, we also find ourselves called to announce the way to transformation. Do you have the courage to invite others to Mass or to prayer, to community and church service, knowing these to be helpful on the road to conversion?
Most important of all, preparing for Christmas, we are prophets who must introduce people to Jesus. God sent his Son not to hide him but to make him known. Are we willing to speak about the Lord?  And more than our words, are we ready to witness to his love, forgiveness and mercy? We can lead others to Christ.
This Advent, consider becoming another John the Baptist, pointing to the Lord.