Sunday 17th February
The word of the Lord! - Luke 3:1-5

'In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar - when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene - during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God's salvation.''

There is a measure of comedy about these verses from the early part of the Gospel. Every ruler, power-broker and influencer of the day is listed, but as this catalogue of "the great and the good" reaches its end, the devastatingly simple truth is that they are all side-lined. The "word of the Lord" is invested in an otherwise insignificant desert preacher. He cannot claim the wealth, status or influence of those who occupied the seats of power, but his message is unstoppable, because it is a message from God.

No-one can dispute that the narratives currently dominating our own landscape are ones of chaos, uncertainty, accusation and fear. But whose narratives are they? We do not deny the seriousness of the issues we face, but these are not the only issues in our world; God has other messages to speak and other messengers through which to communicate.

The third week of Advent invites us to consider where those messages might be seen and found. Who are the equivalents of this eccentric desert preacher who is planted onto the stage of world history to announce the dawn of its salvation? John attracted enough attention for crowds to venture into the desert to hear what he had to say - but were they simply seeking the latest curiosity? Was his just another voice of discontent and aspiration amongst many, or was this God's moment to announce salvation's coming?

We choose to recognise that John truly was a messenger of God. We choose the recognise that a sequence of events that could easily have gone unnoticed or have been dismissed as nothing more than a group of ordinary people just going about their relatively insignificant lives, were indeed the signs of God's salvation. In so doing we place before ourselves a further challenge - how is God speaking to our world today? How do the successes and failures of the world's power brokers signpost us to God's true priorities? What signs of God's presence and purpose might we otherwise overlook if we do not take the time to be still and know?

Through Advent we are invited to inhabit the world of those who longed for God's coming. We do so in the light of a promise and a challenge that one day Christ will come again. We are invited to make ourselves ready; we are invited to grasp eternity's hope; we are encouraged to seek the signs of God in our midst, to nurture our faith as we wait.

God, whose word is made flesh in Christ, give me the wisdom to recognise your truth, wherever it might be found. AMEN

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