Sunday, 12 December 2010

3rd Sunday Advent, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 11:2-11; Isa 35:1-6.10
Today’s Gospel starts by asking a question about who Jesus is. In our modern Britain it might well seem that people are more infested in who Santa Claus is than in who the baby in the crib was. But the question of “who” He was was a question that was uppermost in the minds of everyone who met him 2000 years ago.

You don’t need to know every detail of the Christmas accounts to know that it was a question people asked as Jesus was born. The shepherds who were told to go and see Him by the angels on the hillside must have wondered –because the angels didn’t give them any details. The Kings who came out of the East saw His star, and must have realised He was important, but they also didn’t know fully who He was. “And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them”(Lk 2:18).

And the same was true with the other major figure in today’s Gospel, in the birth of John the Baptist: there were signs and miracles there too. His father was struck dumb for his lack of faith, and then given back his speech. “All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, ‘What, then, will this child be?’" (Lk 1:66). The question of the “who” of the child John and of the child Jesus were very much linked. John the Baptist came to make Christ known.

We just heard Jesus say that John the Baptist was the greatest “of all children born of women”(Mt 11:11). He was the last of the prophets of the OLD Testament, the final voice calling the people to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. But we also heard Jesus say that “the least in the kingdom of heaven”(Mt 11:11), the least of US, is greater than John –because they are not just born of the flesh, “of women”, but born of God.

That kingdom of heaven can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ, and that’s why John spent his whole life trying to make Christ known. John wanted his disciples to follow Christ, and that’s why he sent them to Jesus with this question: “Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for another?”(Mt 11:3)

“Are you the one?” The answer Jesus gave was more than just saying “yes” –He pointed to all the wonderful signs that would accompany the coming of the Messiah. The Jews knew that many promises had been made, and we heard some of those promises in our first reading in that prophecy from Isaiah (Isa 35:5-6). And that’s why Jesus said,
“Go back and tell John what you hear and see;
the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear,
and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor;
and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me”(Mt 11:4-6).

Jesus not only proved that He was the Messiah, He also proved that the kingdom of heaven had begun to reign here on earth. We’ve been thinking the last couple of weeks about the Second Coming of Christ, in glory and power, and it is only then the reign of heaven will be fully established. But even now that reign of heaven is present.
Because He came as a little child in Bethlehem He can come to our hearts now –come especially in Holy Communion. Come to work is us all the things He worked so publicly long ago. Healing for the wounded heart, peace for the troubled mind, rest for the weary soul.

Jesus, the wonder-worker, proved Himself to be the answer to the Jews hopes and prophecies. And if we would have those same hopes and prophecies be real in us today, then that is the baby we must prepare our hearts for this Christmas.

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