O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
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.
Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what the Lord God will say,
for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful,
that they turn not again to folly.
Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together,
righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Truth shall spring up from the earth
and righteousness look down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give all that is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him
and direct his steps in the way.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.
Reading: Luke 7.18b-23
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ When the men had come to him, they said, ‘John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” ‘ Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
John the Baptist sent two of his followers to ask: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
Even John the Baptist had to ask that question!
Despite today’s reading being so near the beginning of the gospel narrative, many wondrous things were already being reported about Jesus. Practical working men had been called and had followed him. Many had already been cured of lifelong and life-limiting medical conditions. Radical new words had been uttered about how humanity might enter into a new relationship with God. John had heard the news of Jesus, and John wondered.
John was born to fulfil a specific divine purpose. As with Jesus, we know nothing of his early life other than he was the son of devout parents. The miraculous nature of his conception and birth, and the reason for that divine gift, would have been explained to him from the moment his young mind could comprehend the words. John would also have grown up knowing the family stories about the cousin who was born just months after him.
As John grew up he developed an ascetic spirituality that brought him closer and closer to understanding God’s purpose for his life. We do not know precisely how or when, but we do know that John came to understand his role as the forerunner of God’s promised Messiah. It was for John to fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah. And then, he heard what Jesus was doing. There must have been a moment when John really, truly and profoundly understood what was happening around him. Then, John sent two of his followers to ask: Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?
Jesus’ response to John’s question is both short and complete. Jesus quotes from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus is the same as John. John fulfilled his part in the story, it is now for Jesus to complete the prophecy, as can already be seen in the way: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. Yes, John, the Messiah is come!
As we continue journeying towards Christmas, and especially in these challenging times, it is easy for us to have moments where, like John, we need reassurance. That reassurance comes from our faith in God and the openness of our relationship with him. We will soon remind ourselves of the joy of Christ’s birth. Let us not be distracted from the certainty and the totality of that joy. Let us put aside doubt and hesitancy, and let us prepare the way for that celebration in prayerful confidence and Christian hope.
Prayers of Intercession
As the grace of God has opened our way to come before him, let us pray in the assurance that he is present among us.
As the Son of God was made known by his mighty works, strengthen his Church in true faith and good deeds. Make through her witness a highway to your holiness, a garden in the wilderness.
May the desert places of sin and sorrow blossom as the rose, filled with the joy of your presence. Bring light to those who are in darkness, love to the hearts that are barren.
Bless us with your presence in our families and friendships. Give us patience in all our dealing with others. Where relationships are hurt or broken, give healing and renewal.
As our Lord Jesus performed great wonders of healing, bring relief and renewed health to the sick and injured. Have mercy on those who after long illness are despairing of health. Give them hope and trust in your unfailing love.
Grant rest to those who have seen the promises fulfilled, all troubles ended, all distresses healed. Make them perfect in the peace of Christ.
Seeking to follow the way which the Lord has shown to us, we make our prayers in his Name.
Prayer for the week
Father in heaven, the days draws near
when the glory of your Son will make radiant
the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy
which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom
which fills the minds of those who find him.
The Lord’s Prayer
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.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
I hunger and I thirst:
Jesu, my manna be;
ye living waters, burst
out of the rock for me.
Rough paths my feet have trod
since first their course began:
feed me, thou Bread of God;
help me, thou Son of Man.
For still the desert lies
my thirsting soul before:
O living waters, rise
within me evermore.
John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811–1875)