Sunday 13 December 2020

Bible Book:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord” (v, 23)

John 1:6-8, 19-28 Sunday 13 December 2020

Psalm 126


John, that man nicknamed ‘Baptist’, I suspect was first ignored or dismissed as a crank, as rather peculiar. As one rare hymn has it,  "A ragged, rugged, honeyed rogue". He was scruffy, living in the wilderness. Perhaps today he might be a character living rough under the railway arches. The thing with poor people, sleeping rough, is that we tend to judge by appearances. John was not a guest for your dinner party, though surely he ought to be?

There is the attraction of the unusual, so people came out into the desert to see this guy they had heard about. They had received a mixture of rumour and false news, laced with truth. And what did they find? Well we have a description of John in the gospels, which is unusual in itself, but his words seemed to throw caution to the wind. People were not quite sure what to make of him. He was popular, certainly, and what he was saying was sharp, lucid, uncluttered. Anyone could understand his message. 

What people heard rang with the bell of judgement. Where had they heard about someone like this before? Searching scriptures, John seemed like a reincarnation of one of the Hebrew prophets. All of this, mixed together, raised suspicion. Perhaps he was seeding subversion, making way for some sort of revolution. Of course, he was heard in different ways by different people and the priests and Levites needed to know his agenda. They worried he might threaten their power, undermine their authority.  John was popular: the poor were drawn to him, those who felt they needed forgiveness. Freely, he’d baptise them, help them turn their lives around, enable them to find some peace in troubled times. It was as though he was offering a love that drowned their faults and fear just like the Jordan smothered breath. He offered freedom and he judged in their favour. That undermined the religious power base.

Perhaps we still need prophets like John today. But perhaps we have them. David Attenborough? Greta Thunberg? Speaking to life, politics, religion…if only we have ears to hear…

To Ponder:

  • Whose voices speak most clearly and prophetically to us today?
  • What actions might we take today to affirm people in our community?
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