John the Baptist and Cousin Eddie
Every family has one, right?
The relative that gets under your skin, wears a powder blue leisure suit to Christmas Eve, says things that make you wonder just what planet they come from.
In the case of the cult classic movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, that would be Cousin Eddie. He’s crass, foolish, and perhaps he’s got a screw loose – but somehow, he’s also…loveable?
Well, when it came to the Holy Family, Jesus had an oddball cousin. He didn’t empty a chemical toilet into a storm drain, nor did he kidnap the CEO of Nazareth’s premier carpentry company, but he did call the religious elite of that day a “brood of vipers.” (Matthew 3:7)
It’s not a unilateral comparison, Cousin Eddie was not the same as the ancient prophet in the wilderness, hollering about winnowing forks and baptisms by fire. But Eddie did stir things up with his thoughtful yet literal response to Clark’s hyperbolic request for the kidnapping of his boss on Christmas Eve. (Which did in the end did “save” the day.)
“The prophets,” my spiritual director Claire is fond of saying, “didn’t follow protocol.” Because of this, they probably stuck out at holiday parties back in the day; kind of like a buffoon in a too-tight sweater, gulping egg nog out of a moose-shaped mug.
Whether it’s Matthew or Luke’s gospel, we often begin Advent with the words of the Baptist: “Prepare the way!” He says, warning those nearby of the threat to come should they decide not to attend to the voice in the wilderness.
It’s a stretch, I guess. But maybe not unlike an off-the-grid Kansas cousin, warning the wealthy what’s in store for them if they aren’t mindful of those “little people” who keep their enterprises running.
Advent’s first messenger was indeed a sight for sore eyes. And maybe if the Baptist arrived in the mid-eighties, he too would wear a leisure suit and occasionally eat squirrels. Anything’s possible.