* Restored painting of John the Baptist.
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.' 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.
(Church in Wales lectionary, from New Revised Standard version)
John's gospel does not look at Jesus' birth or childhood, but plunges straight in to look at his adult life, and at the role of John the Baptist in preparing the people for Jesus' ministry. After hundreds of years without a prophet, the people need to be woken up. John calls them to repent and be baptised, and in doing so, he puts his head above the parapet and draws the flack of the Jewish leaders. In the end it will lead to his death at the hands of Herod.
As Christians we too need to put our head above the parapet sometimes. We need to be brave and "tell it as it is" from a Christian perspective: to offset misinformation that is spread through social media for instance; or to welcome those whom the world dislikes; or to remember those whom everyone has forgotten.
may we learn from
John the Baptist's example
to be brave enough
to go against the herd,
and stand up for Christian values
in our world this New Year.