9th December 2018

This is the third in a series of blogs specifically for Advent, setting the scene for the first and successive Sundays in Advent, leading up to Christmas day.  We hope you enjoy them. You can download these as a PDF documents individually each week by using the link at the bottom of the screen, and we would encourage you to share, mail, facebook post, tweet these blogs throughout Advent.

Better than silence…

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As a student in Paris I visited the Pompidou Centre and was absolutely ‘blown away’ by a Cubist sculpture of John the Baptist by the Spaniard Pablo Gargallo.  Across the years I sometimes thought about that sculpture.  Last year I visited Japan and as part of this trip we visited the Hokone Sculpture Park.  It was a gorgeous late spring day with wonderful light and on turning a corner, after almost forty years, I came face to face with a version of this sculpture. It had lost none of its impact.  The Cubist style somehow seemed perfectly to express the angular character of John the Baptist.

John is one of the figures we think about in Advent in preparation for Christmas.  He was the older cousin of Jesus and sent by God to prepare the way for Him.  He was the son of a Jewish priest at a time when priesthood was hereditary.  But John avoided Jerusalem and the religious establishment, which had compromised with both the Jewish

monarchy and the Roman occupiers.  Instead, he lived in remote places in the desert.  His diet (locusts and wild honey) and clothing (made of camels’ hair) marked him out as someone on the margins of society.  From this place, under the inspiration of the Spirit, John spoke out, without mincing his words.  He told it straight to the crowds who went out to hear him preach, calling them ‘snakes’ and laid into a member of the royal family for breaking marriage law, a criticism which cost him his life.

Where are the John the Baptists in the modern church?  The contemporary church in the western world seems to have become a ‘non-prophet-making’ organisation.  There seems to be a loss of faith and nerve.  Where are the prophets in the church today?


What about us?  Are we bold in truth telling in the situations we come across from day to day?  Maybe we’re not called to be prophets with a capital ‘p’, but perhaps we could think of situations we have been in where, for whatever reason, have

John the Baptist Japan.png

not spoken out.  If we reflect on how we failed to speak out in the past, we could practice what to say the next time a similar situation arises.  We could practice being a bit more prophetic.  This is what I did a few years ago…

Over a period I heard a couple of racist comments and failed to say something.  I resolved that the next time I would speak.  A while later I was at the gym in Blackburn. Two men were talking about the impending demolition by dynamiting of a couple of blocks of flats. One said to the other that they should first fill them with Asians.  I swallowed hard and challenged what they said.  For a moment I wondered if I would get hit!  As it was, they just got up and walked away.  Phew!  They were probably as shocked at what I said as I was in saying it.

This Advent we could each try to be a little more like John the Baptist and at least whisper the truth.   If nothing else that would be better than silence.  

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