The Third Sunday of Advent - Reflection

'Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:‘“I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Matthew 11:9

Brothers and sisters, I have a question to ask: if you could be like somebody, who would it be? Who are your heroes that you would like to follow or copy? Adults, think about who you wanted to be like when you were growing up, who inspired you? When I was growing up, I wanted to be like my brother, I was so proud of him being in the RAF, working on fighter planes and looking so dashing in his uniform! We want to be like these people because, they are good at something we love, they are popular, or they do something to help others. We call them role models. And there is nothing wrong with having role models. Role models can be very helpful, and they can encourage us to become the people God wants us to be. Today, the Scriptures give us a role model too, they give us someone to copy, to act like, and to be inspired by…but it’s not Jesus… it’s John the Baptist.

John the Baptist!? Who’s he!? Well, he was a cousin of Jesus, and he was about six months older than Jesus. He was a messenger sent by God, called a prophet, to pave the way for the coming of the Messiah, one who had been expected to save them from enemies like the Romans and rule over them as their King. John was a very devout man of God, and spent a lot of his time telling people they should stop being bad and sinning against God. Sounds pretty cool, to be the person God has asked to lead the way, to get people ready for the coming Messiah, to wake them up for a big arrival. And John certainly got famous pretty quickly because loads and loads of people came out to see him! Sounds great right? Well, it started off nice enough, but it quickly went downhill, because John didn’t just keep talking about Jesus coming, and about judgement, about getting ready, about reading the Scriptures. He kept saying they had to be baptised and repent, which meant turning away from their old lives and being as good as they could be. He would even call the leaders of the people bad, for not doing the right thing by them, or God. And pretty soon, people got fed up with it. In fact, the king himself got so fed up of it, that he had John arrested and put in jail! But even though John was in jail, even then he didn’t stop talking about Jesus. They just couldn’t shut him up! Look at the Matthew 11:2: ‘When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, (who he’d told people that it was Jesus) he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ He was just checking and still pointing people to Jesus! And yet he was in prison! What Jesus means by having John as our role model? Well He means to copy John in his work, in his way of following God. And what way was that? Getting people ready by waking them up and pointing people to Jesus. But where did John end up? In prison! Oh, that doesn’t sound good. I thought Christians were meant to be nice, and that everybody would love them! But that isn’t want happened to John. Maybe John got it wrong…maybe John did the wrong things? Let’s try to find out what Jesus thought. Was John right to keep talking about Jesus? Was John right to talk about judgement, and be so blunt and to be so serious? Jesus seems to think so, Matthew 11:9: 'Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'' Jesus totally approves of what John has been doing, Jesus loved John, and He wants His followers to be just like him. He wants John the Baptist to be a role model!

Who is Jesus saying should copy John the Baptist? First, it seems Jesus is saying that it should be Christian ministers, Christian priests. People who wear dog collars like me. This is what Jesus gets St Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 4:1: “This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.” Now let me tell you, that priests end up doing loads of things, and lots of those are good things…like chairing important meetings, and help to look after buildings, and open Christmas fairs…but that’s not meant to be our main job. No, our main job is to be just like John the Baptist! Calling people to follow Jesus! So, does that just mean priests, Vicars, those who wear dog-collars are called to be like John the Baptist? Does it mean only people doing my job are to get people ready for Jesus coming, by faithfully preaching and teaching what’s in the Bible? No! Secondly, Jesus is saying that all Christians are to be like John the Baptist. So, If I do my job right, and wake people up, get them reading the bible, and praying, and turning away from doing bad things, to doing good things, then bit by bit all Christians will start to become like John the Baptist too. But if it was just down to me, and other vicars like me, I couldn’t possibly do the job of pointing everyone in Chorley to Jesus, there are just too many. No, God wants everyone—every Christian—to be out getting people ready for when He comes again. In fact, being ready means we are acting a lot like John the Baptist. Now as we heard, that sometimes isn’t very popular. After all John got put in prison, and Jesus, well, Jesus got put on a cross. But then Jesus never said go and be popular, he tells us to go and be like John the Baptist. Go and get people ready, go and point them to Jesus.

Growing up, we all had people we wanted to copy, we all had people who we wanted as our role model. And it’s good to copy them, if they are helping us to be the people God made us to be. However, as well as being a footballer, or a doctor, or an astronaut, or in the RAF, Jesus is telling each and every Christian, that they are also to be like John the Baptist. So, as we continue our journey through Advent, let us ask God to help us, to get ready, and to get others ready, by looking to, and pointing to - Jesus. Amen. (from Fr Peter).