John the Baptist, the greatest among the prophets, the witness speaking for the light! The light, Christ, is already present among the people but He has not been recognised yet.  The expectation for a Messiah is high and so the eagerness to see the signs of his presence is mounting. John lives in a strange way, in the wilderness, his voice calling to conversion is heard everywhere. Maybe he is the one?

John is honest. ‘I am not’ is his answer to those who would like him to take upon himself the title, the attention and, of course, the power of the Nation. ‘I am just a voice’… That One ‘comes after me: – unknown to you – he is already among you’!

While denying to be the Messiah, John continues to call for awareness and conversion towards the one who is coming.

Sometimes I find it difficult to see the attitude of John the Baptist in our environment. It was days before Advent started, and I was coming late at night from the airport with some visitors. There were so many open discos on the road, even in small villages, all with the Christmas choreography but no sign of Jesus. Christmas without God, without the incarnation of Jesus. From my window I heard music all night the Saturday before the first Sunday of Advent. A social event in one of our catholic institutions. Surely those youth who took part in it did not go to mass the following day. ‘We have to attract people’ they say. A politician in another place answered that he had to ‘attract voters’.

I do not think this was the attitude of John the Baptist. He lived in the desert, in silence and austerity in order to sharpen his sensitivity and be able to perceive the presence of God. He did not attract people to himself, but to the One who came after him.

It may happen that we get ready to celebrate Christmas, but without Mary, Joseph and Jesus. It would be a poor Christmas. It is better for us to take the advice of St.Paul:  ‘Never try to suppress the Spirit or treat the gift of prophecy with contempt’.

The Prophet – every Christian is one  – is sent to ‘bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken; to proclaim liberty to captives, freedom to those in prison, to proclaim a year of favour. Is it really good news to see the very Land of Sierra Leone, a ‘land that we love’, taken away with its timber, and see the price of rice go up again? Surely the poor are not happy with this.

There is hope however. If we take the Prophets into serious consideration, we can really expect that ‘as the earth make fresh things grow, so will the Lord make integrity and praise spring up in the sight of the nations’.