“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,” said Jesus.John the Baptist had his ministry. He baptized for the forgiveness of sins in the river Jordan. He had disciples too, and they must have taken part in his ministry, helping with those baptisms. He did his work, because he felt God had led him to do it and he must have known that his opposition to the power elite, King Herod, and to religious leaders too, Pharisees & Sadducees, would bring trouble. And it did. He was thrown into prison to quiet his work, and he knew he would be executed,. And yet, he continues to look to see how God is acting in the world and sends his disciples out. Because maybe, just maybe his cousin Jesus is also following God’s call, could he be the messiah?
"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 offense at me."John was the messenger, who was preparing the way for the one who was to come after him. He knew he was not the messiah. Who is this messiah? Jesus uses the words of Isaiah, the messiah is the one who makes:
· the blind see
· the lame walk
· the lepers cleansed
· the deaf hear
· the dead raised
· the poor brought good news
This is not like those in power: those in soft robes, living in the royal palaces. When the crowds came out to see John, Jesus said, they went to see someone who is a prophet, and more than that, the messenger preparing for the messiah. They didn’t go to see John in fine robes. And yet, people have always been interested in those who have those soft robes and live in royal palaces.
Growing up, I remember watching Robin Leach and his show: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. And aren’t we fascinated by those who seem to have it all, for we with our “champagne wishes and caviar dreams,” long for such things. Jesus and John stand in such sharp contrast to such thinking.
“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.”There is a strong tone of humility in these words uttered by Jesus. John is great but even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Such humility is why Jesus is not interested in our judging others, but in our serving others. It is John and Jesus who ask us to do much more than long for being rich & famous but to jump in and do the work that God calls us each to do. Friday, December 10 was Human Rights Day – did you know? – a day that “recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.” (according to the UN)
The website introduces us to such defenders in Mozambique, Botswana, Serbia, Russia, Cambodia and the Palestinian Territories. Their work puts them in direct opposition to others who are using discrimination to gain the advantage in those societies.
“While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.” (from the UN website)Such is the work of God, that is risk taking… to bring Good News to those in need.
“It is not a role that requires a professional qualification. What it depends on is regard for our fellow human beings, an understanding that we are all entitled to the full range of human rights and a commitment to seeing that ideal become a reality.” Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human RightsAs a Christian, such is our role in this world, to have regard for our fellow human beings, to speak out against any discrimination and to help bring the Good News that we have felt to everyone. On this third Sunday of Advent, we are reminded that we are to bring joy into our lives and that of others. We are the ones now helping to bring the light into the darkness. In our own way to help: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers be healed, the deaf hear, the dead have new life, and the poor have good news brought to them.
What does this look like?
There are members in this community who are part of the Lions Club – one of their ministries is to take prescription glasses we no longer need and find someone who can use them, in a developing country. They are helping make the blind see. It is that humble service that we all can do. In the words of Winston Churchill:
“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”Our challenge is to be God’s messengers today, to see the miracles and resurrections taking place in our midst and reveal and celebrate them, to lift them up for all to see. To give so that our lives may be enriched and so others may simply live. Amen.