St Luke's Anglican Church in Enmore a lively, inclusive welcoming liturgical community

Advent Reflection

Advent Reflec­tion

Sunday 27th. Novem­ber 2016

John the Baptist is one of the import­ant fig­ures we encounter on our Advent jour­ney. All four Gos­pels record his min­istry and each of the evan­gel­ists has his own assess­ment of his role. This even­ing we have read Matthew’s account of John’s min­istry but we have also listened to the lovely anthem by Orlando Gib­bons which gives a music­al set­ting to John’s nar­rat­ive about the Baptist. John high­lights the response of the reli­gious estab­lish­ment to the Baptist’s min­istry. They are clearly puzzled by it and unsure how to respond. They are very aware that John is hav­ing a sig­ni­fic­ant impact on the inhab­it­ants of Jer­u­s­alem and Judea: there is a new interest in reli­gion and John is the top­ic of con­ver­sa­tion in the mar­ket places and the din­ner parties. The Scribes, Priests and Phar­isees get togeth­er and decide to send a del­eg­a­tion to John with a list of ques­tions: Are you the Mes­si­ah? Are you Eli­jah? (It was widely believed in the Jew­ish com­munity that the arrival of the Mes­si­ah would be pre­ceded by the appear­ance of Eli­jah) Are you the proph­et? (Moses had proph­es­ised that there would one day arise a proph­et even great­er than him­self). John’s response to each ques­tion is a clear unequi­voc­al, I am not!

John’s Gos­pel is fam­ous for the ‘I am’ state­ments of Jesus. “I am the good shep­herd”; “I am the light of the world”; “I am the bread of Life”; “I am the way, the truth and the life.” But in con­trast John is the great, “I am not.”

There is a fam­ous altar piece by the Six­teenth Cen­tury artist, Mat­thi­as Grune­wald, the cent­ral pan­el of which is an unusu­al Cru­ci­fix­ion scene. It depicts an ema­ci­ated, agon­ised Jesus hanging on the cross and at the foot of the cross are four fig­ures. On the right side stands Mary, the moth­er of Jesus, being com­for­ted by the beloved dis­ciple and next to them kneels Mary Mag­dalene look­ing up at the Saviour. But to the left of the cross stands anoth­er fig­ure, John the Baptist with one hand hold­ing open a book on which is writ­ten, ‘He must increase and I must decrease’  and his oth­er hand is point­ing to Jesus. John’s role in life and death was to point the way to Jesus and not to draw atten­tion to him­self. Our task in Advent espe­cially but in every sea­son of the year is to focus our atten­tion on Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.


Philip Brad­ford