Born when I was, I did much of my growing up in the 60’s [I remember a bit of life in the 50’s, but given my age, nothing before the advent of me seemed too terribly important]. As an emerging teenager, I was impacted by the rhythms and the engaging beat of rock and roll. Elvis was the hit of the 50’s and had his following, but by my time he was mostly involved in making movies [few of which I bothered to see]. They say the music died that day early in February 1959, when Richie, Buddy and the Big Bopper died in that terrible airplane crash, but it did not seem so to me at the time: I was just awakening to the doo-wop sounds of the Tokens singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” – a classic if there ever was one! I remember when the Beatle’s invaded the United States and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show over 44 years ago [I do not, however, remember when those other beetles invaded Egypt during the time of Moses – just a bit before my time]. All of this to say that rock and roll was then, and is now, in my blood.
I well remember the days of driving my children to school, and their cry, “can you turn on the radio”; it was a plea to which I usually succumbed because I genuinely liked contemporary music [I confess I did not understand and do not want to understand rap despite its popularity – did you notice I refrained from calling it “music”?]. Listening to the radio [and watching some television shows] with my children back then made me realize the extent to which pop stars had become idols and it was quite frightening. Still quite frightening indeed when one considers the extent of today’s celebrity personality cult. There seems to be a vast difference from the adulation lavished upon the early classic rock and rollers in comparison to today. Then, the girls screamed and fainted and/or generally threw themselves into a frenzy, but it all seemed to be part of the show. I do so hope it was part of the show [with the Beatles this began to change].
Now there seems to be a whole new focus. Something has radically changed. Britney, Avril, Justin and Hannah [now Miley], to name only a few, model a [very affluent] lifestyle that has captivated the hopes and dreams of an entire generation [adults are not exempt – there are film and sport stars aplenty from which to choose]. MTV even has a show entitled “Cribs” that features tours of the houses of sports and entertainment celebrities where they are given opportunity to showcase their unrestrained commitment to everything they ever wanted [who after all, does not need several Maserati automobiles – especially when there are different new and vintage models – a Rolls or two and at least one Lamborghini].
What is it about these “stars” and their lifestyles that so captivates? What draws the crowds? It is as if we look at them and then ourselves only to assess that we are desperately deficient in comparison. What they have, we want. Like moths to a flame we are drawn. For some [many] life seems to have meaning only insofar as it is lived out vicariously. That this is so points to the deep brokenness and alienation from self [and others] that so dominates today’s society. It is an aspect of the human condition we would rather ignore and make every effort to do so, but with tragic results. The idols of our day, like the idols of yesteryear, do not give life but rather they suck the very life from those who worship them.
On Jordan’s banks, the Baptist delivered a message and baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin [MK 1.1-8]. And the crowds came, and very large crowds they were we are told. They gathered from all over the Judean countryside confessing their sins. Something within those who went out into the wilderness to hear this strange prophet’s message and receive his ministrations had called them to respond to his proclamation to prepare and get ready for the One Who was about to come upon the scene. However, in the past they had lived their lives, something within told them that now was their opportunity, now was their time to make a critical decision of ultimate importance: to respond to the call of the Baptist. Or not.
There are some decisions that simply cannot be ignored. We may seek to evade making a response but only discover that such evasion is a significant response itself. And sometimes the opportunity to make a decision never re-presents itself. Sometimes the day, the hour, the minute presses us with such an awareness of eternity that we know in our knower the time to respond is literally now or never.
In the Judean wilderness so long ago so it was for ordinary folks like you and me who looked deep within themselves and came up wanting. They could hide this truth no longer from themselves and so sought realignment of life. Is there ever a time when this is not needed? Right now seems a good time.