Christmas Prayers and Reflections: 2 January (John 1.19-28)

Preparation

O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Blessed are you, sovereign God,
creator of heaven and earth,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your living Word, eternal in heaven,
assumed the frailty of our mortal flesh,
may the light of your love be born in us
to fill our hearts with joy as we sing:
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.

Reading: John 1.19-28 

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord” ’, as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. 

John 1.19-28 NRSV

Reflection 

Then they said to him: ‘Who are you?’

How often are we asked about our faith? How often are we asked whether we believe in God, or whether we go to Church? For some these questions occur quite frequently, for others they are never asked. Whether questions of faith crop up regularly, or not at all, should be a matter upon which we should reflect.

If we are never asked about our faith, perhaps we should pause and ask why that might be? Is it because we live out our lives in a way that suggests we have no faith? Is it because we rarely display those characteristics that people believe lie at the heart of the Christian faith … selfless love and service? If, on the other hand, we are asked about our faith, even on an occasional basis, we should ask ourselves whether it is because we have shown a glimmer of the Christian life but without ever acknowledging that we are guided and strengthened by Jesus?

In today’s reading priests and Levites were sent to ask John: Who are you? John had fulfilled his destiny to be the forerunner of the Messiah by proclaiming a message of repentance and by offering a ministry of baptism for the forgiveness of sins. John had been creating quite a stir. Many people had travelled into the wilderness to hear his words and to receive the baptism he offered. John’s words and actions stood out, and it led the religious authorities to ask the question: Who are you?

At no point did John make any claim of ‘greatness’ on his own behalf. John’s role was as a messenger of God, a prophet. Indeed, in response to the questions of the Pharisees, he said: Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal. John’s faith and humility rang out loud and clear. John was a messenger in the wilderness, a messenger crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord.

As we journey further into the new year, our reading for today reminds us of our call to live out our faith in a way that leads others into the joy of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ. We are called and challenged to live our lives in a way that means no one ever has to ask those questions about our faith, because the answer is obvious to all!

Prayers

To us a child is born, to us a son is given;
let us pray for the people he came to save.

Wonderful Counsellor,
you order all things with your wisdom:
help the Church to reveal the mystery of your love
and fill her with the Spirit of truth:
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Mighty God,
the government is on your shoulders:
guide the leaders of the nations
and bring in your kingdom of justice and righteousness: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Everlasting Father,
you call us to live together in unity:
protect by your mercy all your children,
bless our families and renew our communities: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Prince of Peace,
you bring reconciliation through the cross:
by your healing power give to all who suffer
your gift of wholeness and peace: 
Lord, in your mercy 
hear our prayer.

Let us commend the world, to which Christ came,
to the mercy and protection of God.

Lord Jesus Christ,
your birth at Bethlehem
draws us to kneel in wonder at heaven touching earth:
accept our heartfelt praise
as we worship you,
our Saviour and our eternal God.
Amen.

Rejoicing in the presence of God here among us,
let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us.

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

Christ, who by his incarnation gathered into one
things earthly and heavenly,
fill us with peace and goodwill
and make us partakers of the divine nature;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.
Amen.