John the Baptist Master of Ceremonies

The panto season is here!

Don’t you just love it?

My favourite is Cinderella… know that magic moment when she appears at the top of the staircase, and the announcer shouts out:

“The princess………… Cinderella!”

..and she descends the staircase in all her splendour, with every eye fixed upon her, and off she waltzes straight into the arms of her intended!

Announcers or (Masters of Ceremonies as they are called) are important at do’s like that. We’ve even seen them on the television at posh events. They stamp their maces on the ground and call out the names of the very important people. They prepare the way for their coming.

Without announcers guests wouldn’t know which VIP was appearing, or what their status in life was. Announcers are paid to get our attention, to make us listen, and to turn our eyes in a different direction, to look up and take notice.

That’s exactly what John the Baptist was called to do. He was a Master of ceremony, an announcer, a messenger. He’s the one I want to tell you about. We’re all called to be witnesses like him.

I have it on good account though, that he was a straight speaker. When people flocked to him for advice, he helped them realise that whatever it was that made a person happy, then that was the course to follow. After all you only live once, and you have to make the most of every opportunity to find happiness.

“Follow your heart, do what makes you feel good.” That’s what he preached… isn’t it?

Oh sorry, no he didn’t. That’s not what is down here in the bible. I didn’t read that properly. I’ve got that wrong. He didn’t say that at all.

No what he said was…. “Turn away from your sins, and be baptised.” I’ve got it right this time.

He called his followers to cleanse their souls of all their wrongdoings……

So many came to see him out there in the desert. Perhaps they were attracted to him by his appearance.

Perhaps it was the flashy Armani suits and trendy jackets he wore; clothes with all the designer labels. After all he had to look the part; presentable, clean cut, respectable.

He most likely had manicures, pedicures, makeovers the like.

He had a holy and wholesome image to live up to.

His parents were well known, good family stock, faithful churchgoers. …

Hang on, no I’ve done it again.

No it says here that he dressed in camel hair. Well perhaps he didn’t care much about outward appearances. I thought everybody did these days!

Then again…I suppose living out there in the desert, he must have been well stocked up with food.

You know the sort, eight turkey dinners even before Christmas day has dawned!

Wine cellars full, tanked up well for the dawn of an exciting new Millennium. Sleeping in the next morning to get over the excesses of too much the night before. Lots of wastage in the bin from the leftovers that never got eaten.

Just hang on a second. It says here he ate nothing but locusts and wild honey! I can’t believe that!

But I suppose if it’s here down in writing…….

So he didn’t

a) tell the people just what they wanted to hear

b) he wasn’t out to impress them

c) He denied himself the pleasures in life.

There has to be a catch somewhere. This is not normal!

There must be some flaw…he must have had some kind of weakness?

Well then I think that he must have enjoyed all that adulation from the crowd, crushing in to get a better look at him, worshipping him almost, shouting for him, hanging on every word he said.

They probably congratulated him for the fine sermons he preached. I bet he received many compliments, I bet that he even felt really tickled inside when someone asked him for his first autograph.

They wanted to know if he was a special prophet of old come back to life, or even the Messiah himself. Imagine how he must have felt with all those lovely compliments, day after day… I think he probably lapped it all up.…

Listen to what it says here about him in today’s reading from John’s gospel:-

“I am NOT the Christ!”

“I am NOT Elijah!”

“I am NOT the Prophet!”

I am but a voice crying in the desert. Make straight the way for the Lord.”

”Among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

And later on John said, ”He must grow greater and I must grow less!”

Well I’ve got it wrong again, he wasn’t out to draw attention to himself after all.

It also says here that he was not the light, but came only as a witness to the light.

So what he was doing was actually pointing away from himself, to the One who was about totake center stage, the Messiah, and not taking any of the glory.

John left his hearers in no doubt at all that the Messiah would come; he wasn’t one to expound on the improbabilities of it happening; he did not sow seeds of doubt, he stood firm in the message he was called to preach.

I think John was quite a unique person…a very effective witness; a true announcer, a messenger of God.

What does all this say about us, and what kind of witnesses will we make this coming year?

Let’s take up the challenge, let’s ask ourselves how best we can be God’s messengers.

I think we can be forgiven if we choose not to become nomads living in the desert, wearing camel skin and eating locusts.

But we should be asking how we can best point others to God, how will we make straight the path for Jesus to return to earth, for come he will.

It is said that for every one prophecy about the coming to earth of the Messiah, as a new king to Bethlehem, there are six to every one, that say that Jesus WILL RETURN to earth as King and Judge.

What kind of announcers are we called to be?

Let us pray that we will not be found sleeping, wishing we had done more or been more ready.

Song to follow:(unaccompanied or on tape)

I wish we’d all been ready sung by Cliff Richard

Life was filled with guns and war,

And everyone got trampled on the floor.

I wish we’d all been ready.

Children died, the days grew cold,

A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold.

I wish we’d all been ready.

But there’s no time to change your mind.

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.

A man and wife asleep in bed,

She hears a noise and turns her head.

He’s gone.

I wish we’d all been ready.

Two men walking up a hill,

One disappears and one’s left standing still.

I wish we’d all been ready.

But there’s no time to change your mind.

The Son has come and you’ve been left behind.