The man is ragged, doesn’t smell great. His clothes are strange and his face carries a mean glow. Sweat is everywhere. You wouldn’t want to meet him in a back alley on a grim night. He raises his fist, punches at the oppressive atmosphere. His nails are split and broken. He quotes an ancient seer, as he yells and makes children recoil. With his chest heaving, unwashed hair lashing out in all directions, flecks of spit flying like randomly sprayed bullets.
‘Look! Wake up! Enough of this indolence and mediocrity. This is the time – the time for action! I’m not hanging out here in the wilderness with the jackals for my own benefit! Grab at the rubbish in your lives and set fire to it. Burn it up. Make a clear straight path for God – so you can see him when he appears. So he can see you! He’s coming! I tell ya! No kidding. Enough of the sitting around doing nothing. Enough of perching on fences and swapping cynical anecdotes. Talk is cheap, less than cheap, it’s pitiful, it’s nothing, it’s vacuous. It’s corrosive. Like a swarm of ravenous verbal locusts chomping its way through genuine integrity and purpose. It’s bankrupt and it’s available in all the wide-mouthed, two-faced leaders who are only in it for their own good. Making money off speeches that steal the hope from the likes of you. That kind of thing is rotting garbage. It stinks. Their dead rhetoric is crawling with flies. When he comes, when the Messiah kicks down the door of injustice, everything will change. Everything! So get ready. Get ahead of the action. Don’t be caught napping. Clear the closets of your lives. Make room for the one with eyes like burning torches and words that melt any kind of dross. I’m not messing with you. This is no party political speech. Change. Now! Now!’
He eyes the people as he wades into the river Jordan, picking at the wads of of honey and shards of locusts between his teeth. He seems to calm as he says, a hand gesturing towards the crowd, ‘Come on! It’s time. Everyone can start again. No one is excluded. Get baptised now and turn over a new leaf. Come on. All of you. Soldiers, prostitutes, men, women, poor, rich, sick and healthy, no one’s excluded. All of you, come! Get ready for the one who won’t just cover you with water, he’ll soak you with the power of almighty God! Saturate you in the power of the Holy Spirit. Come!’
Drawing on Mark chapter 1.