Vanguard or Rearguard?
A panel in the Bayeux tapestry, recording the Norman invasion of England in 1066, shows king Harold “comforting” (encouraging) his troops – by prodding them with his sword! The same word appears in the Old Testament: “Comfort my people” says God (Isaiah 40:1). This does not mean God’s people can relax and take their ease. It is an encouragement and call to action to get on with the task in hand; to prepare the way for the Lord and to proclaim his message (Isaiah 40:4-6). John the Baptist was the embodiment of Isaiah’s prophesy (Mark 1:1-8). He was an unconventional character with a powerful message. He appeared in the desert, “comforting” the people of his day to repent and be baptised, to prepare the way for one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit – Jesus. One of our worship songs likens the church to “an army of ordinary people”. Where is the Parish in that “army”? Are we the rearguard, looking backwards defensively from a church in retreat or are we the vanguard facing forwards and ready to advance with our mission? In this Advent season, let us prepare ourselves to welcome the Christ-child and be at the vanguard of proclaiming the true meaning of Christmas.