"I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals” (Mark 1:7).
John the Baptist's job was to proclaim the Incarnation. If that sounds overwhelmingly theological, consider that God’s entry into world was the body of Jesus, complete with hands and feet. Tiny to begin with, but nonetheless intimate and familiar to us for whom he came.
John ends his announcement with awe: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals.” This was the task of a slave. In the ancient world, slaves went barefoot while serving the powerful, who wore footwear.
Google "shoes" and learn that only 20 percent of the world’s population today wears shoes. Some by culture and choice, but many because the shoes they assemble in sweatshops for first world consumers are too expensive to buy. Search further to learn that Americans spent $48 billion on shoes in 2012, at 29,000 shoe stores employing 189,000 people.
Aside from John’s assumption that the Messiah would wear sandals, there is no mention in the New Testament that Jesus wore shoes. When the soldiers gambled for his garments at Calvary, there were no shoes mentioned. A barefoot Jesus is possible. Moses was told to remove his Egyptian-made shoes before the burning bush (Exod 3:5). Jesus made the ground beneath his feet holy wherever he walked. Women loved his feet, could not keep their hands and kisses off of them. He returned the gesture by washing the feet of his dusty, reluctant disciples at the Last supper, including the feet of his betrayer.
If you are in church this weekend, consider the joy of Psalm 122, recited by pilgrims arriving at the temple.“Our feet are now standing at your gates, O Jerusalem.” God is coming to us this Advent. Can you hear the divine footsteps? Open wide the gates of your heart to welcome this Emmanuel.
One small step for you; one giant step for all of us.