We are in a season of Prophets, during Advent!

RAMBLING RECTOR

Some church buildings are reopening for public worship following the changed regulations. St Barnabas, Joydens Wood remains closed on Sunday 13 December to reflect a high infection rate in that area. I will continue to send a short reflection, for those of you who must continue to ‘shield’. It will be based on the Sunday readings.

 

SUNDAY 13 December 2020                                                          THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

 

Isaiah 61.1-4 + 8-end

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion –
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.

 

8 ‘For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.’

10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 For as the soil makes the young plant come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.

John 1.6-8 + 19-28

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

 

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’

21 They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ 22 Finally they said, ‘Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, ‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, ‘Why then do you baptise if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’

26 ‘I baptise with water,’ John replied, ‘but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.’

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

 

Reflection

 

We are in a season of Prophets, during Advent!

 

The great Prophet Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord…

 

And it’s all about transformation.

 

It’s all about Good news for the poor, for the downtrodden and for the disadvantaged.

It’s all about soothing and healing for the broken, a restoration to wholeness, freedom and release for those who languish in dark prisons.

It’s all about joy instead of mourning, the rebuilding of places that have been laid waste.

 

It is all about transformed people, transformed lives and transformed communities. And you will of course recall that this is the passage of Scripture, that Jesus sought out as the starting point of his own ministry in the synagogue in Nazareth.

 

These are beautiful, wonderful words – and speak of a future hope.  And yet, it is a future hope that seems a VERY long time coming.   We look around and still we see the injustices of the world. In this last year we have seen that the communities both here and abroad, which are most devastated by the pandemic, are those who are already struggling to make ends meet, struggling more as jobs are lost, and the recession hits hard. 

 

Here in our Gospel reading, to guide us through, is another Prophet – John the Baptist.  John was known as the forerunner of Jesus, seen as another Elijah, and seen as a bridging figure between the Old and the New Testaments.

John, questioned by the religious and community leaders, is clear that it is not he who is the coming Christ, the Messiah, the Holy and Anointed One. Rather, he insists, borrowing the words of the Prophet Isaiah (chapter 40 verse 3)

‘I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Make straight the way for the Lord.”’

 

John understands his role, he is not pretending to be other than he is.  He does not say… “Well I’m not the Messiah, but he’s my cousin!”  John resists the temptation to make any of this about himself.

As Christians we can play a part in healing the world, through our practical acts of kindness, through charitable giving.  But it is not about ourselves and how kind we are! Our first duty is always the call to pray, to hold those places of despair and desolation before God, holding them in love and compassion. And God will reveal where we should act.

 

Even in these wilderness days.

 


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