Good Morning! Welcome to this mornings service.
Worship today is led by Ray Heasley.
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Rev Christine Fox: firstname.lastname@example.org
Children's and Family worker - Jessica Bullett: Jessicagrangewood@outlook.com
Thank you to all those who have been part of putting together this weeks service.
Message - Ray Heasley
Today, on the third Sunday in Advent, we focus on John the Baptist and his role.
John knew he was not the Messiah, but he did have his own role to play. We look
at three aspects of John and his message.
1 John was Different
John was not a smooth, slick, well-dressed, super-evangelist. He resembled Elijah
as described in 2nd Kings 1 verse 8: “a hairy man with a leather belt” (also
translated as “camel’s hair”). People would have known the prophecy of Malachi 4
verse 5 “Behold I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day
of the Lord comes.”
John was from the desert, the place of silence and isolation. There was no selfindulgence
for him. He ate what food he could find there. He arrived from the
desert to confront the people’s complacency and sinfulness. The king is coming
and they are not ready.
John swam against the current. Sometimes the unconventional Christian has
greater impact than others, and reaches some which more traditional approaches
don’t. The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland is a Christian Community of
reconciliation; a number of the many volunteers there are not regular churchgoers,
but have a real ministry in relating to young people and others whom
traditional churches are not reaching at all.
Are we too traditional, appealing mainly to those already like us? Do we need to
learn from other Christians who see things differently? Perhaps from young
2 John had a Message
In New Testament times, there was no email, no social media to bombard people
with news and messages. God spoke through prophets, or ‘heralds’, who often had
uncomfortable messages to deliver to people who weren’t following God faithfully.
His father, Zechariah, had prophesied that John would go before the Lord to
prepare his ways. Old Testament prophets spoke of a Messiah, one who was to
come, sometime in the future, but John said “He is the one who comes after me,
the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” – there was a sense of
urgency, immediacy about his message. In Matthew’s version he says “Repent, for
the kingdom of heaven is near.”
For most people 2020 has been a year with much less face-to-face contact with
family or friends, and many have found it difficult in several ways. Holidays and
events have had to be cancelled, as well as many church activities. But many
churches have discovered that they can reach people and keep in touch in
different ways, and have perhaps been surprised that online services have been
watched or ‘attended’ by people who would normally be reluctant to come in
person on a Sunday. New neighbourhood groups have been set up to keep an eye
on the lonely and vulnerable.
So, perhaps even more than usual, there are opportunities for us to share God’s message and his love at this Christmas season, and not just say a neutral ‘seasons greetings’.
3 John pointed to Jesus
Before a big TV comedy or show, there is often a ‘warm up’ person, who checks that the microphones etc. are working, and tries to get the audience in the right frame of mind, get them laughing; she or he then goes away before the main act starts.
John knew he was not the ‘main act’, he was not the important person, but had his own role to play. In the first part of the gospel reading, we had these words: “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”. Later, when explaining his role to his disciples he said, “He must become greater; I must become less.”
Some religious leaders were sent to question John about who he was, wondering if he might be the Messiah. John repeatedly answers in the negative, telling them who he isn’t, but leaves them with an intriguing possibility that the Messiah is among them – but they don’t realise it yet.
That the Messiah could be anyone was a part of Jewish tradition. The Messiah could be the person standing next to you, so John says “among you stands one you do not know”.
Should we be looking for the Messiah like a taxi driver waiting at the airport arrivals for a customer, holding a board with a name on, relying on them to come and find him so that they can move on?
Or should we be looking at those around us, in case the Messiah has walked straight past us and is expecting us to follow where he leads. Jesus will leave enough clues in our everyday lives for us to recognize where he has been, where he wants us to go. We need to make a conscious effort every day to see when Jesus is amongst us and to ask what he is calling us to do.
We too have a task, a duty, to prepare the way by our lives, for the Holy Spirit to reach people today, not for us to claim the credit or glory, but for Jesus to come in. We need to avoid the danger of drawing attention to ourselves, as preachers, musicians or singers, or even as a church, coming between people and Jesus.
Like John, we are to be humble in acknowledging our role, in making way for Jesus to come in.
This will be an unusual Christmas, perhaps much quieter than usual – that may be an opportunity to focus more on the real message rather than all the usual rushing about and festivities, and perhaps an opportunity to share something