2nd Week of Advent – John the Baptist’s message of repentance

Luke’s Gospel places huge significance on the role of John the Baptist in the first few chapters of his Gospel. Passages about the ‘precursor’, the ‘messenger’ who is a “voice crying in the wilderness; prepare a way for the Lord.” (Isaiah 40:3) top and tale the familiar nativity sections we know all too well. It begins with Mary visiting Elizabeth, then John’s birth and the circumcision and naming of John in the temple. Then after Jesus’ birth, his presentation in the temple and then the story of him being left behind in Jerusalem as a twelve year old, we are taken back to John the Baptist’s life again.

This is the Gospel the Church gives us to reflect upon in this second week of Advent. The ministry of John the Baptist calling the crowds out of the towns and into the wilderness to share a message of repentance, forgiveness, hope and love. After so many Old Testament prophets preaching to the faithful and sharing the Word of God, here we now have John the Baptist, the final servant to prepare the way. John lives out in the desert, wholly off of God. He is completely reliant upon the Lord so that he can fulfil his ministry. Something about him draws huge crowds into the wilderness and when they hear his call for change in society, his straight talking assessment of every member of the times – describing them as a ‘Brood of vipers’ (Luke 3:7), they seek an immersive baptism, the prayerful cleansing of a person of sin.

For so many of the people of his time, John’s ministry worked and he lead people to change. He points them in the direction of every Old Testament prophecy, he points the way of the Lord, he points the way to Jesus. I can’t help but think of the equivalent ‘preachers’ today being ridiculed or seen in a different light. Those who stand in city centres or park corners with megaphones, A-boards or walk around sharing in new ways. Only this week I saw a tiktok viral video in Ireland where a woman was trying to spread the exact message of John the Baptist walking past bars and she received a torrent of abuse although I think she did mention they’d go to hell for boozing!). What are the ways of spreading this message of repentance and seeking a cleansing of heart today, but in a manner that 2021 understands and embraces?

John the Baptist challenges us to dig delve and delve into our hearts, to welcome God’s forgiveness and let go of whatever is holding us back. For us here in 2021, our focus is on looking to the second coming of Jesus, on changing our own hearts and perspective so that we can bring the same love of Christ to the world we now live in.

Mr M Robinson
Lay Chaplain