John the Baptist and the supernatural breaking into this world


Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield, Sunday 15th December 2019

Alpha and Omega, detail from the east window in Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield.

It’s Sunday morning again, the weather is cold but the sleet that was coming down at 5.30 is stopping, I was awake with heartburn, I am now on my way to church. I am making sure I am in the building before the end of the early service as gear needs to be set up and cleared away, there is a service of carols by candlelight in the evening which I am not playing in.

The service, the third in our ‘Five Prayers for Advent’ series was based on this passage from Luke Chapter 1

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn[a] of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us –
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.’


The sermon, from my notes and memory, went something like this: Luke starts his Gospel announcing news for everybody, an important idea that will dominate spoken into the dominant culture of its time, a tale of country folk; but its significance is above all others, for all humanity, Gentile as well as Jew. God works mighty deeds through ordinary people and ordinary situations.

People filled with the Holy Spirit echos the Old Testament as does the message of John the Baptist. It is a story that involves the God of the universe: The supernatural breaking into this world with all its problem. God comes in his way, it has to be his way, the coming of the Christ. That breaking in will continue, in the turning of tables, the crucifixion, and glorious resurrection.

John means the Lord is Gracious, The name John did not exist in his family, it was a new unfamiliar name. Zechariah’s first words on getting his voice back are to praise God. What will this child become? The story needs pondering, a deep listening from the heart.

This child John will go before the Lord to prepare his way. He springs from on high, God remembers his covenant and brings light and peace through Jesus.

The Jews waiting for God to ethnically cleanse their nation, longing to be free of unbelievers. That was not God’s plan to the world. John’s message was to be repentance. Repentance of sins is the only way to experience the tender mercy of God. John’s message was to call people from their sins. The mercy of God is through forgiveness because he loves each of us.

Zechariah prophesied that this was to be fulfilled not in John but Jesus.

Jesus has come and is coming.

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