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Youth Ministry Resources - 3rd Sunday in Advent

Year B: John 1:6-8. 19-28 - John the Baptist tells of the coming of Christ - 3rd Sunday of Advent

The importance of John the Baptist is acknowledged by the selection of Gospel readings for both last week and this week. Some might say that one week is enough but there is something for each of us to learn from this strong brave man. The identity and who exactly John the Baptist is, is the focus of the questioning by the men sent by the Pharisees. Specifically the representatives of the Pharisees want to know if John is a prophet or the Messiah - either figure would dismantle the power base the Pharisees held in Jerusalem so this information was vital to them.

The nuances of the text may be lost on many 3rd millennium Christians. It was in the book of Exodus that God promised to send God's messenger before Israel and guide them to the Promised Land. To "prepare the way" describes Israel's way back from exile in Babylon and so it became in Jewish circles a classic expression of God's comfort and salvation. So for John the Baptist to use these phrases in relation to the coming of Christ, John was making it clear to anyone who would listen that Jesus was the Lord whose ways John the Baptist prepared to make straight.

John was having a huge impact on the people with hundreds gathering every day at the river Jordon. Participation in John's ritual of baptism expressed the person's willingness to change. He was clearly going to be trouble to those in power. He was clearly a prophetic figure in demeanour, message and clothing after the pattern of Elijah. It is also very likely that John's disciples continued to gather together even when John the evangelist was writing this gospel around 90CE.

Despite this huge following and his numerous disciples, John the Baptist insists that he is a witness - he is the divinely chosen witness to the light, not the light itself. John confesses his unworthiness even to perform the service customarily done by a slave - that of undoing the sandal strap.

During Advent we are also meant to be preparing the way of the Lord and that means that we too are called to be witnesses to the light, people ready to proclaim Jesus is Lord. We need not adopt John's fashion sense or dietary inclinations but our lives are meant to be a contrast to the secular message of individualism, consumerism and materialism. These messages form a constant barrage of brainwashing especially at this time of year. See it, want it, buy it! accompanied by weekly offers of a new credit card or credit limit.

I was speaking with a 'good Presbyterian' who explained that she would be alone on Christmas day and wanted to offer her Christmas break to volunteering with St Vincent de Paul. Some young people will spend Christmas in gaol and others will spend Christmas Day visiting them. This 'good news' rarely gets any press and yet these are the very people Jesus names as his Gospel option for the poor. What will you do?

Cate Mapstone

Year C: Matt 11:2-11 - The coming of the Messiah - 3rd Sunday in Advent

John is experiencing a reversal of opportunities - last week he was the prophet bravely naming the sinners and demanding repentance and baptism. This week John is denied access to the wilderness and open plains because he is imprisoned by thick rock walls and finds himself in the wilderness of doubt and confusion.

John was quite confident that Jesus was the Messiah when he baptised him in the Jordan. Now he wonders what Jesus is about because Jesus is not a fiery preacher of damnation and judgement who echoes John's message to repent now. In his confusion, John sends his disciples out to check out Jesus and report back. There were a number of expectations of the Messiah and the coming of a Messianic age. One expectation was that the Messiah would overthrow the oppression of the Romans and the Jewish Zealots were arming themselves is readiness for this Messiah. Another sign was the healing of those who are afflicted.

Jesus, as Messiah, was overthrowing the oppression of blindness and leprosy, poverty and exclusion. Jesus was different to John, he was a person who sat with women, children, men, outcasts and marginalised. - hence Jesus' suggestion to John's disciples to "go back and tell John what you see and hear…" By describing what they saw and heard, they were able to describe the beginning of the Messianic Age. Jesus was calling for a conversion of heart for those who heard the Good News - a sure way to demand that people "harden not your hearts." By calling for a conversion of heart Jesus was asking people to be open to God's Kingdom of surprising reversals.

Jesus proclaims John's greatness as a prophet and then he reverses John's elevation by bringing the most needy and neglected to the top of the heap. Anyone, regardless of their circumstances is invited to God's banquet. In a very structured society this reversal is confronting to those who feel they are already the elect. We live in the in-between-times of knowing who the Messiah is, and that he has come, and the time of waiting for the second coming, the completion of the Kingdom of God. In some ways we sometimes relax into our baptised state and feel we are the elect and are saved and other times when we reflect on our lives and see the mistakes and recognise our sins we realise that we need to make some changes in our lives. Let's use this last little time of Advent to prepare our hearts for conversion and for the coming of the Messiah as a little babe.

Cate Mapstone

Youth Ministry Resources 3rd Sunday in Advent
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Youth Ministry Resources 3rd Sunday in Advent