Reading this Sunday's gospel, it's tempting to ask: So where was the good news of John's preaching? It requires a lot of careful searching to find it in amongst the accusations flying, the name calling and the downright frankness. No wonder many churches slot in the children's Nativity presentation for this week or skip ahead to focus on Mary and her willingness to bear the Son of God.
JBap comes a little too close for comfort, is much too frank for our polite church circles.
Contemporary Advent worship comprises warmth and joy and cuteness supplied by children.
Our stables are warm and dry and smell of baby powder. Our angels are snuggly and our shepherds, though they fidget, are important, not banished to the hills.
But isn't the starkness of John's message more useful for a world and a people whose everyday experience is not of unremitting joy? Contrary as we are, wouldn't we rather find a chink of light in the dark than be enveloped in cloying sweetness? We simply don't trust that which is too fuzzy. We yearn for challenge.
We need JBap more than ever.
For a few years now, I've been waiting on some enterprising designer to bring out a JBap for our crib scenes. He'd probably always look a bit strange, out of place in the domesticity of most of our nativities with his wildness.
But let's pray that JBap is never diluted in such a fashion.
Because then the baby in the manger would be left there for folk to coo over.
And would never be allowed to grow and challenge and change the world.
We do indeed need the preparation of JBap to confront us with reality- the need for repentance, the need to shake off our complacency and welcome God who drags us screaming and kicking to build the Kingdom.
It's worth looking carefully for that good news that John preaches.