The gospel readings the last two Sundays in the Anglican church have been about John the Baptist – the famously camel-hair shirted, locust and honey-eating, first prophet of the New Testament. A celebrity, certainly, but one who lived off insects as a way of retreating and repenting rather than rebranding himself on global TV.

And a celebrity who, when asked whether he was anyone special said ‘I am not the Messiah… I am not worthy to untie the sandal of the one who comes after me’.

In the week before Christmas – and right up until Christmas morning – what do Christians take from his story?

Yes, an invitation to retreat, repentance and humility – something as counter-cultural now as it was in first-century Palestine – but also an invitation to look forward and to hope. Hope is precious and rare, because it is difficult to hold onto - as wars rage in the Holy Land and elsewhere, our leaders stoke the fears of ordinary people and avoid difficult decisions, and it’s easier to distract ourselves or sit with our despair.

John stood on the banks of the Jordan, day after day, waiting for Jesus, ‘the light who was coming into the world’, to walk towards him and start his ministry. He knew he was coming any day and he wanted to be ready. I don’t think he took his eyes off the horizon.

As Christians wait for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas, we are called to kindle, nurture and share John’s passionate, confident hope that a better world is on its way.

Written by Lois Sparling of St George’s Church in Kendal.

To share an insight about how your faith impacts your view of things, please contact: