Sun 13/12/20

Broadcast and Livestreamed Options for Worship on 6 December

8.10 am  Radio 4 Sunday Worship  is 'Cities of Promise - a place in the heart' from Methodist College, Belfast
9.00 am  The Church of England On-Line Service is a Christingle Service with t
he Children's Society
9.30 am  A modern-style service from Christ Church Gipsy Hill available at: Christ Church Gipsy Hill - Home | Facebook
10.00 am The Cathedral Eucharist is available at: Chester Cathedral - YouTube
A wide range of BCP Services are available on the Prayer Book Society website at:Online streaming of BCP services - The Prayer Book Society ( 

A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent
John 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28


From time to time, we are all mistaken for being someone or something we are not.  Whilst training for a new student simply couldn’t grasp that I could oversee meal bookings for everyone in college, have pastoral care of a group of students and study as well and concluded I was a member of staff.  


We also make mistakes in identifying other people.  Sometimes we recognise our mistake easily.  Sometimes nothing can convince us that we have wrongly identified the person or their role.  For many years, the local Gas Board had a telephone number 1 digit different to the telephone number of the office where I worked.  I had great expertise coaxing, bullying and kicking the church boiler into life, but was seriously under qualified to service or repair their gas boiler.  Often, I failed to convince callers I was not the Gas Board and had to put the phone down.  It was truly a case of mistaken identity.


Mistaken identity is at the heart of today’s Gospel reading.  John the Baptist has begun his ministry, but the Jewish leaders are confused about who he is.  Could this be the long-awaited Messiah?  


At the time of Jesus’ birth many people were expecting Messiah to come.  But they had different ideas about what Messiah would be like.  Some were looking for a Messiah to free them from Roman occupation.  Others were looking for a religious figure.  It was the task of the Jewish leaders to work identify false messiahs (and there were many), from the true Messiah.  They needed to know urgently if John the Baptist was the Messiah they were waiting for.  


John wastes no time telling them they have mistaken his identity; he is not the Messiah.  The Jewish leaders continue their questioning.  If John the Baptist is not the Messiah, he must be Elijah, returned to prepare the way for the Messiah.  It was an understandable mistake.  The very final words of the Old Testament come from the Prophet, Malachi: “See!.  I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”


As we discovered from Mark’s Gospel last week, John the Baptist dressed in camel hair, lived in the desert and ate locusts and wild honey.  He would certainly have reminded people of Elijah.  The Jewish leaders have mistaken John’s identity again.  


The Pharisees have one last got at identifying John the Baptist.  Deuteronomy 18:15 promises that “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like [Moses] from among your own people.”  Is John the Baptist a second Moses?  Wrong!  


Finally, the Jewish leaders have to admit that they do not know who John the Baptist is.  They cannot understand his ministry.  We can hear the frustration in their voice as they fling out their final question.  “Who are you?  Give us an answer.  What do you say about yourself?”  


Finally, John gets chance to speak.  He does so with the quiet authority of a man sent from God speaking directly from Scripture.  “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness.  “Make straight the way of the Lord”.


The real John the Baptist is finaly revealed.  He is neither Elijah, nor a second Moses.  He is ‘The Voice’, come to prepare the way for the long awaited Messiah.  Or, as John tells us in his Gospel, the witness to God made man in Jesus Christ.  John the Baptist is the only one who reveals the identity of Messiah.  


The purpose of John’s ministry is to point people to Jesus, the true Messiah, able to save the whole of humanity.


Now that Messiah has come, John the Baptist’s task is one we are called to share as witnesses  to God’s love made known in Jesus Christ.  It is an awesome task, which can only be done with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in each at work in each of us. 


Can we witness for Jesus today, by our words, our deeds, the very lives we live?  And what sort of Jesus are we witnesses of?  Are we revealing Jesus, the Son of God?  Or are we witnessing to a Jesus of mistaken identity?  A Jesus who is altogether tamer, less threatening and more easily understood than the real Jesus?  


As we seek to witness to Jesus Christ, let us pray that we might be faithful witnesses to the real Jesus.  The One who shares in the whole of our human experience and died on the cross so that we can know God’s presence and his peace.  The one who brings life to all who believe in him, however dark life may seem.

S Anne Lawson

8 December 2020

Prayers for 13 December 2020


The Collect for the Third Sunday of Advent


God for whom we watch and wait,

you sent John the Baptist to prepare the way of your Son:

give us courage to speak the truth,

to hunger for justice

and to suffer for the cause of right,

with Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.


The Post-Communion Prayer for the Third Sunday of Advent


We give you thanks, O Lord, for these heavenly gifts;

kindle in us the fire of your Spirit

that when your Christ comes again

we may shine as lights before his face;

who is alive and reigns now and for ever.  Amen.


Prayers of Intercession


The Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as ‘Gaudete Sunday’, or ‘Rejoicing Sunday’.  The Prayers of Intercession (written by Ian Black, a Vicar in Peterborough) focus on rejoicing in all circumstances.


Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.


We rejoice, O Lord, in your liberation.

May your Church proclaim your freedom and release…

Set us free from all that holds us back from proclaiming your glory.

Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.


We rejoice, O Lord, in your justice.

Guide the nations in ways that enable all people to sing for joy.

Restore your balance in trade and cohesive living.

Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.


We rejoice, O Lord, in your favour.

Pour out your grace on our communities that they may abound in your love…

Bless our homes and those closest to us with whom we delight in your praise.

Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.

We rejoice, O Lord, without ceasing, giving thanks in all circumstances.

May we hold fast through whatever trials may beset us…

God of peace, sanctify and keep us in your faithfulness.

Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.


We rejoice, O Lord, in your mercy.

We give you thanks for those for all who have passed from glory to glory.

Count us acceptable in your sight at your coming again.

Rejoice in the Lord

Give thanks to his holy name.


Ian Black (Adapted)