John 3:22-30 NRSVue

22After this Jesus and his disciples went into the region of Judea, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there, and people kept coming and were being baptized. 24(John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.)

25Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Some thoughts on this scripture

John the Baptist knew who he was in the sight of God. He knew his strengths and his weaknesses, and knew that his life was to be centred on the one to come. This was not a drudge or burden for him: he rejoiced in the coming of Jesus and in his place in the mission and life of Jesus. He knew he was the announcer of good news, but not the good news itself. Something in him faded into insignificance when Jesus arrived; but this sense that he was second to another has made him first among many. In being humble we are big in the sight of God. Prayer can be an offering of self totally to God, giving and receiving life and love.            

Luke tells us about some shepherds who live in the fields and watch their flocks by night. In contrast to Matthew who has wise men come from the East to adore the baby Jesus, Luke speaks of smelly shepherds who would have been regarded by the scribes and Pharisees as ritually unclean, as 'outsiders.' Luke mentions them to give encouragement to all those who lacked status in society, and for whom Jesus had a special regard.

In Luke's story Mary and Joseph are portrayed as transients, somewhat like "the homeless" of our contemporary city streets. Are such people in my thoughts and concerns this Christmas?