A reflection for the 13th December 2020
Third Sunday of Advent

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Offered for Sunday 13th December 2020


Stephen

Reflections Script

Third Sunday of Advent

December 13th 2020


Since the introduction of the
revised Common Lectionary in 2000.
We give John the Baptist
with his battle cry
"I'm not the messiah"
two bites of the Cherry
on two successive
Sundays in Advent
last week and again this week.

For many years I thought
this was a little
over the top but this year,
as I have penned and recorded
nearly forty reflections,
following the set Sunday
Gospel Readings
I have found the occasional
doubling up of readings
challenging and highly beneficial.

However, if you type the words
"not the Messiah" into Google,
page after page, results refer
not to John the Baptist
but to a Monty Python film.

And if you say "not the Messiah"
in mixed company,
somebody will inevitably respond,
in a silly voice,
"He's a very naughty boy."

In the controversial film,
The Life of Brian,
his mother insists,
"He's not the Messiah.
He's a very naughty boy."
And the whole point
of the film is that
Brian is not the Messiah.

He just keeps getting
mistaken for him,
something an angry bishop
on a major television
debate misunderstood,
after arriving fifteen minutes
late for the screening
of the film; and having missed
the beginning, he believed
'The Life of Brian'
was a send-up of Jesus.

The Bishop failed to understand
the basic tenant of the movie,
Brian is indeed not the Messiah
a reflection of
John the Baptists assertion
I'm "Not the Messiah"!


Let us Pray


Lord, you gave Elizabeth,
in her old age,
the gift of a son called John,
who would prepare the way
for Jesus to begin
his ministry here on earth.
Lord, fill us your people
with the joy
of reflecting the same passion
and commitment of John,
and direct the minds of all us
in the way of salvation
and peace.
John was martyred for truth
and justice,
so may we dear Lord,
energetically profess
our faith in you,
and help us to lead others
to your way, your truth,
and your eternal life. Amen


Address


On July 21st 1969
Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon.
For the first time in
human history we had sent men
to the moon
who for the first time
got out of a spacecraft
and stood on a solid surface
that wasn't the earth.

We watched from a distance
as day dawned over the earth.
From that moment,
the world was a different place.

It no longer held and limited us.
We could reach towards the stars,
and perhaps one day
live among them.

Even though the space programme
did not develop as fast as
perhaps we thought it would,
that first step onto the moon
was a watershed in human history.

Afterwards, our knowledge,
technology and perspective,
has never been the same.

For us the world, and space,
had been made new.

Our Gospel reading
tells of another moment
in the human story
where there is a clear
"before" and "after".

It may not have received
the mass media coverage
of the moon landing,
but it is every bit, if not,
more significant,
having far-reaching ripples
through time and generations.

Not only in the way
we view and order things
but it also has an eternal dimension.

Our second look at
John the Baptist,
this time from John's Gospel;
we find him on the banks
of the river Jordan,
preaching with authority,
repentance and baptising people.

However, even without
mass media he'd become
a big celebrity in a
relatively short time
and the religious, stroke,
political authorities wondered
what was going on.

He could be a threat
to their authority;
their very way of life.

On the other hand,
it is just possible he is
the expected anointed one.

So they send a delegation
to investigate.

John quickly confirms that
he is "not the Messiah".

The delegation suggests
other options;
a new Elijah, perhaps?
Or the prophet whose
coming was foretold?

They may be hoping that
he is simply a crank,
another preacher making
extravagant claims
for divine inspiration,
that can safely be ignored.

But John refuses to be
pigeonholed by their categories.
Who am I?
"I am the voice of one
crying out in the wilderness,
'Make straight the way
of the Lord.'"

John quotes directly
from the Old Testament
and the prophet Isaiah
who is speaking directly
to God's people were in
exile from their land.

Isaiah tries to persuade
them God, far from having
finished with them,
is in fact going to do
omething entirely new.

God is going to make a
road through the wilderness,
to take them home.

Just as Isaiah is God's voice,
proclaiming a new action of God,
a new hope,
so John is now God's voice.

This time, though,
the new thing to come is
an even more radical break
from that which has gone before.

John represents a history
defining turning point
in the story of God's
dealings with humanity.

He is the one who turns
the old into the new.
He is like the ancient
prophets of Israel,
berating them for their sins,
calling on them to repent.


He belongs with Isaiah,
Amos, Hosea and the rest.
But he also breaks
with past tradition.

He is not one of them, he says.
He is a breath of fresh air,
a new voice,
the news of someone
who is about to appear,
someone who has already arrived,
someone who will change the world.

When that someone appears,
John will disappear,
his work over.
A new age will have dawned.

The voice of John the Baptist
reminds us of the radical break
in human history that happened
when Christ entered the world.

In all the preparations
for the celebration of Christmas,
it is hard to concentrate
on the Advent themes.

So it's important for us to
listen to John.
All that happened
before is over,
he implies,
as the new light appears
in the world;
and that new light
is already present as he states;
"Among you stands one
whom you do not know,
the one who is coming after me."

There is nothing our world
needs more than the light
of God's presence.
In Advent we wait for its dawning.

When it comes,
it will not be a blaze of glory,
but in a baby born to live among us,
'Emmanuel God is with us'.
He is the light that shines
in the darkness
and cannot be overwhelmed.

In this penitential
season of Advent,
John encourages us firstly,
to look around in the world
for signs of the light of Christ,
secondly and connected,
so we may be ready
to greet the light of Christ
at Christmas and finally,
also at the end times.


To Summarise


When human beings
stood on the moon,
human perspective shifted
and the world was changed.

John the Baptist makes a shift
in human history with
an eternal dimension,
when the Old Testament
prophets give way to
God's new radical plan.

The birth of the light
of the world,
despite its apparent smallness,
ushers in a new age
which cannot be destroyed.


Our Blessing


God of power and mission,
we look to the example
of John the Baptist
in the power of your spirit,
to give us courage to witness
to the Word of God
in what we say and do.

May we be hope-givers
in our world?
struggling with the effects of
corruption, recession,
violence and Covid.

We ask this with confidence
through Jesus the Christ
and the Spirit of Hope.
And the blessing.......


group