Today is the Third Sunday of Advent. It’s a day when we, traditionally, think about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ coming at Christmas — now just two weeks away!
John the Baptist was a bit of a mystery man. He suddenly appeared in the wilderness, and nobody knew where he’d come from. He proclaimed a challenging message, telling people to make a fresh start. “Don’t rely on having been born a Jew,” he said in effect. “Repent” — which means change your attitude; “be baptised” — which means begin your life again as a child in the family of God. Then he warned them about a coming judgement, and told them to make up their minds before it’s too late. Who was he?
In the days when processions travelled at walking pace, a king would send someone running ahead to tell people they were coming. He was called the forerunner. “Get ready,” he’d cry. “The king’s coming, only about an hours travel behind me.” John said he was just a forerunner for Jesus: “Jesus is coming,” he cried out, “I’m just a voice telling you to get ready. And hurry up, there’s not much time left before he comes.” That’s who the mystery man was.
Perhaps we’ve got it all wrong about Christmas. It’s just two week away, and what have we done to get ready? Shopped until we’ve dropped? Bought expensive presents and decorations, and more food and drink than is good for us? And we probably haven’t finished yet!
Of course, if we believe that the Son of God came down to earth at Christmas to give his life to save us, we’ve really got something to celebrate, and giving things to other people is a good way to do it. But with that ought to go the spiritual preparation.
What’s John the Baptist saying to you and I today? “Make a fresh start. Don’t rely on having been born a Christian. Repent, change your attitude. Begin your life again as a child in the family of God. Make up your mind before it’s too late.” That’s how to get ready for Christmas. That’s how John the Baptist is, still today, preparing the way for Jesus to come into our lives afresh at Christmas. Are we listening?
God for whom we watch and wait,
you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:
give us courage to speak the truth,
to hunger for justice,
and to suffer for the cause of right,
with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Additional Collect for The Third Sunday of Advent
is Copyright © The Archbishops Council