These words from the prophecy of Isaiah, foretell the coming of Jesus and the role that John was to play in preparing the way and calling people to a mindset of repentance and preparation. It was a difficult message to proclaim, and perhaps even harder to hear, for it was genuine challenge to communities and individuals who had in some way lost a sense of direction and purpose. At a time of political and cultural tension and in the face of Roman occupation it was hard to find an authentic voice offering a clear way forward and John was to be one offering such an approach.
In the midst of the current tensions in the world, whether in Middle East, or indeed in the discussions around which path Brexit might take, it is perhaps crucial for all of us to raise our degree of commitment and our engagement with the hope presented to us in the Gospel. Jesus, whose coming we so clearly anticipate through Advent, is the one who brings hope and, through the activity of the Holy Spirit, is the one who will transform the world and the relationships within it.
So as we recall today the life and ministry of John the Baptist, we should not think he is too austere and difficult a character for us to connect with, but rather share in his sense of longing and expectation and seek to work for the creation of peace, and the reconciliation and forgiveness essential to the transformation of lives and communities.
Canon Christopher Burke
Vice Dean and Canon Precentor