Mike has the ability to attract and repel at the same time. A member of the congregation I served for 25 years, Mike deals with chronic mental illness. Bipolar, he tends toward the manic side, always with another get rich plan just around the corner. His world is bigger than life. I first met him at a church supper. I was brand new to the congregation. Mike took me under his wing. He invited me to sit with him, asked all sorts of questions, and told me all about how God was going to grow the church. Mike is self absorbed and his family continues to pay the ticket price for the emotional roller coaster he rides.
And yet, when I envision John the Baptist, he looks a lot like Mike. The last time I saw Mike, I walked with him after he had been discharged from the hospital. He had lost so much weight that he ran out of holes to cinch his belt. His pants were slipping off his hips. We stopped in the hallway and tied his belt around his pants. Not an elegant solution but it got him to the car.
His weight loss is not what reminds me of the man whose diet was bugs and honey. There is very little about Mike that suggests that he would make a good prophet. At times he can be crude. He speaks his mind. He pushes. Sometimes his words are inappropriate. Oh, wait; that sounds just like the one God chose to prepare the way for the Messiah.
Before he retired, Mike's wilderness was his taxi cab. His fares were just hoping to get from point a to point b, but Mike had this way of pointing them to Jesus. More than one person found their way to our church through Mike. II seems to me that he was such an unlikely person to prepare the way for another to meet Jesus. And yet - God seems intent on using unlikely people. God really is quite peculiar! Maybe His image is best reflected in the odd among us.
To join in this Advent story, perhaps were going to need to let our "odd" out; admit our own rough edges; adjust our avoidance of the characters in our lives. Maybe that's how to prepare the way of the Lord.
Kate Kotfila is Pastor of Cambridge United Presbyterian Church. She and her husband David live in Jackson. They have two adult children & a faithful (if clueless) Plott hound, Arnie.