When John the Baptist first burst upon the scene, there was wide speculation about his identity. The authorities in Jerusalem decided to investigate this strange man and learn something about him. Sunday’s Gospel reading is an account of that investigation. It gives us some helpful insights into what John believed about his own life. One overriding impression is clear; here was a man who believed he had a mission.
We would expect that of John. He was a public figure. His name was a household word. Crowds of people hung on his every word. They would walk miles just to hear him preach. It is not surprising for such a man to have confidence in himself. He knew who he was and what he had been sent to do.
Public opinion tried to make John into something other than he was. Some thought he was the Messiah. Others thought he was Elijah, risen from the dead. Still others thought he was the prophet foretold in the book of Deuteronomy 18:15. But John disowned all such titles, and just went on being himself. He accepted himself as he was. We must accept ourselves for who we are, and not try to be anybody else.
Next, we must recognise that, like John, we all have a mission in life. John was called “a man sent by God”. The same title can apply to you and me. Every one of us is a man or a woman sent from God.
We are created by God for a purpose. We know, of course, the story of John’s coming in the world. He was conceived and born when his father was an old man and his mother was past the age of child-bearing. John’s life was a miracle. But so is ours. The circumstances of our birth may have been quite ordinary but to God we are unique. Every human life, including yours and mine, is a miracle of God.
The only thing special about John was the cause that he represented. When the delegation insisted that he tell them his true identity, he answered, “I am a voice”. That is all he was, a voice speaking out for a cause. You are also a voice, and so am I. Every one of us is a witness to Christ.
John’s mission was to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. The good news is that you and I can do the same thing. The least among us can represent the greatest cause in the world. By the words we speak, by the deeds we do, by the attitudes we show, we can help to make the word a little more receptive to the coming of Christ.
John achieved his mission of preparing people for the coming of Christ. With the coming of Christmas we have the same opportunity to bring Christ to the attention of people. We are surrounded by commercialism and materialism, which can obscure the real meaning of Christmas. Are we going to be swept along by this tide, or are we going to organise our preparation for Christmas in a spiritual way? We may not be great preachers like John the Baptist but in our own quiet way we can make people think that there is more to Christmas than material happiness. This is our special mission.