One of the trendy questions asked of female celebrities arriving at awards ceremonies is “Who are you wearing?” This is a fancy way of asking, “Who fashioned your gown?” It’s kind of an ego deflator, considering the questioner seems more interested in a person they probably never met. Put another way, the creative spirit of fashion designers is now wearing celebrities.
The readings for the third Sunday of Advent celebrates another dominant spirit: God’s Holy One. The stars of this Sunday’s readings wear that Spirit proudly and are grateful for the loss of their old identities. In our first reading (IS 61:1-2A, 10-11) Isaiah sounds absolutely giddy when he tells us whom he’s wearing.
“I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.”
It was the Holy Spirit, as manifested in Isaiah, who then clothed John the Baptist. In our Gospel reading, (JN 1:6-8, 19-28), when the priests and Levites of Jerusalem ask John who he is and who he’s wearing, he credits his answer to the prophet who inspired him:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’” as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Of course John refuses to upstage the true star about to take the public stage, stating he isn’t worthy to untie his sandal strap.
That may be the Spirit speaking, but as cloaked in John, he let the Baptist’s style show through—and his role as Christ’s opening act is still legendary.
Crazy talk? Many who didn’t notice John’s spiritual clothing paid attention to the penitential hair shirt he wore—and believed HE was crazy—not only for wearing it but for recommending that others show their own signs of repentance.
If through Isaiah the Spirit came off flamboyant and through John as zealous, Paul’s expression of Spirit to the Thessalonians in our second reading (1 THES 5:16-24) is all business—but designed for all seasons so it would wear well:
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.”
Timely advice. No—eternal.