by Fr Dabulamanzi Ntshangase
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‘John the baptiser was that “Elijah”’
Most of the prophets in the Old Testament prepared people for the coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people, therefore, were longing and hoping for the coming of this Messiah. The Messiah was to come very quickly and they were expecting him in their own life time. Based on the prophecy of Malachi 3:23-24, the Jews believed that the prophet, Elijah, would return to herald the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptiser was that ‘Elijah’. This is because the clothing of John, as described in the Gospel episode, resembles that of Elijah. 2 Kings 1:8 stipulates that Elijah ‘wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist.’ Again, like Elijah, John seems to be an outsider, living in the desert. Scripturally, the desert amongst other things is a place or an experience of intimacy with God (Hosea 2:16). John preached the Gospel of repentance. His message, even today, urges us to change our hearts, our selves, and our ways of life. Through his message the Lord God is urging us to hear his voice, soften our hearts and turn our lives around. Advent, amongst other things therefore, is a time for us to be sorry for our sins. It is a time for us to make our ways straight from God’s heart to our own hearts.
Advent is, further, a time to put ourselves into the desert experience of being intimate with God. As we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas by assuming the desert experience, we need to remember that Christmas is a gift from God. A gift of His only Begotten Son and the same gift we are to give to each other. It is a gift to pray for others, to feed, clothe and shelter them. In other words, it is someone who has an encounter with God, intimate with Him who can heed to the voice of Jesus in the Matthew 25:35-37 when he says, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’