Advent with the Baptist

by Gifford Savage

Advent is a time of waiting, 
but mostly we aren’t good at being still.
We are consumed with cards to be written, 
trees to be decorated, 
presents to be bought and wrapped.

Our preparation is rushed, superficial.
Christmas music carries us 
into crowded streets of lonely people,
and then when we least expect it,
we encounter John.

In the middle of all the forced festivities 
we aren’t prepared for him.
He seems out of place here 
amongst the star and angels, shepherds, Magi 
and Mary with her baby in a manger.

We’re not ready for John,
challenging us from the wilderness
telling us the One to come will change us,
because we aren’t sure that’s what we want.
Maybe we aren’t prepared for change?

You won’t find John on a Christmas card
with his unsettling message –
unwelcome as glitter ground into the carpet,
persisting long after the cards have been taken down.
We aren’t prepared for the baptizer.
He belongs to the desert,
with his strange clothing 
bizarre diet and passion.
What has John got to do with this season of 
peace and goodwill to all?

But that’s why he’s here 
in the midst of the frivolous distractions
and cloying sentimentality.
Because John is just what we need 
to remind us again what we are waiting for.

To ask if we have had our fill yet 
of the emptiness and hedonism,
narcissism and pessimism,
that we’ve masked behind coloured lights 
and gaudy baubles.

John holds up a mirror to our souls.
That’s why he’s here now
to shake our complacency 
as he rages and shouts at us:
Are you ready for what is coming? 

Are you ready to love? 
To really love,
unconditional, non-judgemental,
gratuitous, generous, 
inclusive, sacrificial love.

Are you sure you’re ready for that?  				
Really ready?
Really Prepared?
As you wait in hope –
for Love to come again at Christmas.

Gifford Savage is from Bangor, Northern Ireland. His poetry has appeared in a number of journals, including Poetry NI, Lagan Online, Poetry 24, The Bangor Literary Journal, The New Verse News, the 2022 anthology ‘Across the Threshold’ and previously in Agape Review. He has performed his poetry on local television station ‘Northern Visions TV’ and was winner of the Aspects Festival Poetry Slam 2022.

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