Prepare ye the way of the Lord.. from Godspell

This is the season to watch and wait, to keep awake. Stop, watch, pay attention – Something incredible is going to happen. This is the time for dreaming, for desires and longing, and into this time comes the messenger John. Today, on the third Sunday of Advent we continue to linger with this character, and remember that good news, gospel always begins with a messenger.

Proclaimer, preacher, wild man, witness, uncomfortable prophet ..

I wonder what your picture of John the Baptiser is?

In the 1972 musical Godspell, John the Baptist is one of a troupe of 10 performers who together tell the story of Jesus. Based on the gospel of Matthew the performance uses clowning, pantomime, charades, acrobatics, and vaudeville to tell the story of Christ. “The Church takes itself much too seriously. It has to learn to laugh at itself sometimes. I think if Jesus were here today, he would be moving and acting like this.” These were the words of Stephan Nathan, who acted in the initial production. Godspell is a pageant that moves from moment to moment, a production intended to celebrate good news (‘god spell’ is Old English for gospel) and weave this God’s spell of new hope, new joy, new life over its audience.

(This week I have found inspiration from Thom Shuman’s reflection, Friend of the bridegroom, in ‘Gobsmacked’

‘This room will come to order’, the Chair intoned. ‘This hearing is for the purpose of obtaining the facts concerning this person who has appeared in our midst, who seems to be causing a great deal of controversy and discomfort amongst our people. The first witness has been sworn in. Would you please identify yourself for this committee?’

‘My name is John.’

Shuffling some papers until he found the right document, the Chair continued, ‘Commonly known as John the Baptist. Mr Baptist, are you the light that has come into the world?’

‘No, sir, I am not. And please, call me John.’

‘If you are not the light, then who are you?’

‘I am simply the one who draws people from the shadows of this world, and of their lives, so they can find the Light.’

‘Well then, are you this word we have heard about, that is supposed to have been from the beginning of all time?’

‘No, I am not the Word. I am the messenger. For all those folks who have been deafened by the noise of our culture, I hope my words will lead them to the One who can silence their fears, who can speak to their concerns, who can answer their questions, who can whisper songs of joy and peace into their ears.’

‘Well, I don’t understand why you are here before this committee’ said the Chair, with a degree of impatience. ‘Just who in the world are you?’

‘Sir, have you ever been to a wedding?’

‘Of course, many, many times.’

‘Then you will remember there comes that moment in the service when the bridegroom appears at the front of the congregation, just as everything is about to begin. Well, I am the one who has stood with the bridegroom and fixed his tie into a perfect shape. I am the friend who adjusts his button-hole and brushes a stray hair from his morning suit. I am the good friend who reminds him to smile at the bride as she moves to stand by his side, so she won’t turn to him in 25 years time and ask why he didn’t smile on their wedding day. I am the one who whispers, ‘walk slowly’ as he steps out, and I go to the back of the church to dim the lights so that only he can be seen. I am the one who shushes all the latecomers so they can hear his voice. I am simply the friend of the bridegroom, thanking God for the gift of serving him, and the privilege of getting out of the way.’

Good news, gospel always begins with a messenger. The good news is always beginning somewhere in the world. May we have ears to hear, and may we step back into the shadows to enable others to hear good news, hear the word of justice, freedom and joy.

Wedding flowers outside St James the Great, Claydon.

Wedding flowers outside St James the Great, Claydon.