We continue to journey with John the Baptiser this week – with a focus on John’s Gospel. The emphasis here is on John’s message and his refusal to allow himself to become the focus, while calling people to prepare for God’s restoration. Add to this, the themes of liberation and deliverance that are proclaimed in the other readings, and the third week of Advent becomes a wonderful opportunity to recognise God’s presence and activity in our world, with joy!
John the Baptiser’s message is in focus this week, and some of the prophetic foundations for his ministry, and that of Jesus, are coupled with the story of his preaching, and his refusal to really identify himself. For John, he was unimportant – it was his message that mattered, and it is a message of restoration and of empowerment, both internally and externally. John proclaims that One is coming who will baptise in the Holy Spirit – moving the ‘law’ into the heart (as Jeremiah prophesied).
In the letter to the Thessalonians, the believers are encouraged to live as true followers of Christ, with spirits, souls and bodies enlivened by God’s Spirit.
In a similar way, Isaiah’s prophecy speaks of restoration, particularly of the marginalised, poor and suffering ones, in the power of God’s Spirit.
Finally, in the Psalm for this week, the experience of being restored by God is described, and it is not just an outward reality, but an experience that changes God’s people inwardly too, creating joy and strength.
God’s saving restoring work must always embrace our entire lives, our entire experience and our entire being. This means that, as much as our hearts need to be changed, so to do our structures and systems. As much as we need to rebuild broken cities, homes and nations, so too do we need to rebuild broken hearts, broken relationships and broken spirits.
It is God who does the work of restoration – this is the Good News of Advent – but we are invited, even as John was, to be voices proclaiming God’s coming, and participants in God’s saving work.
May we be challenged to hear, to prepare our hearts and to participate in God’s liberating work as we worship this week.