O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Blessed are you, Sovereign God of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
In your tender compassion
the dawn from on high is breaking upon us
to dispel the lingering shadows of night.
As we look for your coming among us this day,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Blessed be God for ever.
John the Baptist
When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then 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, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.’
Jesus asked the crowds: What did you go out into the wilderness to look at?
We are curious creatures. We seem to be hard-wired to make long journeys and to join queues, even if that means standing about in the cold and the rain, just because we are curious. We may have nothing but the vaguest notion about what might await us at the end of our journeys and queues, and yet, overcome with curiosity, we sally forth. Sometimes we sally forth time and time again.
Today, we hear Jesus ask the crowds that went into the wilderness to see and hear John the Baptist the simple question: ‘Why?’ What was the motivation that caused them to step outside of their normal routines and make that particular journey? Was it in response to a profound need? Was it brought about by a sense of divine calling? Was it just a matter of following the crowd? Was their journey simply a matter of idle curiosity?
In earlier times people attended their churches out of a sense of duty. In those times assumptions were made about such issues as belief, faith and commitment. Over the centuries it has become obvious that many have made the journey from a ‘blind’ faith to a ‘curious’ faith, that is from unquestioning acceptance to a need for explanation and proof. Many are curious about the Church and the message it seeks to communicate but, too often, their curiosity is stifled by a wall of antiquated practices and doctrinal anachronisms. Today we hear Jesus ask a question of the crowds that we should be asking ourselves!
Jesus’ question to the crowds, and to us, is about faith. He asked the crowds who went to see John: What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? Jesus’ question digs down into the superficiality of the curiosity of those crowds. Jesus’ question also digs down into the superficiality of our curiosity. Those first century crowds were under no obligation to go and see John in the wilderness, just as we are under no obligation to attend our local churches. But, our reading makes it clear that if we allow our curiosity to be channelled along the way prepared by John, we will surely be led into the presence of the Messiah, the one through whom: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
Let us pray that, through our words and actions, the Good News of Jesus Christ might be brought to the curious. Let us pray that their faith might be fed and nurtured, and that they might come to play their part in leading others from idle curiosity to active faith.
Watchful at all times, let us pray for strength to stand with confidence before our Maker and Redeemer.
That God may bring in his kingdom with justice and mercy, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may establish among the nations his sceptre of righteousness, let us pray to the Lord.
That we may seek Christ in the scriptures and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, let us pray to the Lord.
That God may bind up the broken hearted, restore the sick and raise up all who have fallen, let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of God’s coming may dawn on all who live in darkness and the shadow of death, let us pray to the Lord.
That, with all the saints in light, we may shine forth as lights for the world, let us pray to the Lord.
Let us commend the world, which Christ will judge, to the mercy and protection of God.
as your kingdom dawns,
turn us from the darkness of sin to the
light of holiness,
that we may be ready to meet you
in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Uniting our prayers with the whole company of heaven,
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.
Christ the Sun of Righteousness shine upon us,
scatter the darkness from before our path,
and make us ready to meet him when he comes in glory;
and may the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among us and remain with us always.