The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
The lectionary moves from Matthew to John this week, pulling back, in a way, from the immediacy of the story of wonder and flight that has dominated the Christmas season, to consider the meaning of this coming one. We also find we have been transported 30 years. The child the seeking magi found under the star, who was forced into exile by murderous Herod and a fearful Jerusalem is now introduced by his cousin John…as a sacrificial lamb: the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
The 16th century artist Pieter Bruegel imagines the scene within the chaos of his own Flemish time and place. Peasants and nobles, soldiers and clerics, children, pilgrims and foreigners are so tightly assembled it is hard to even make out John and the Jesus. We wonder if we can hear, much less understand from our perch near the back of the crowd. A careful look will reveal judgments of all sorts by the artist as to who listens and perceives and who doesn’t. This too is not much different than our own times.
“Listen to me, O coastlands, pay attention, you peoples from far away!” the prophet voices his dream in Isaiah, the cry laboring above the noise and confusion.
The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Let us quiet ourselves and listen for the one who comes quietly, unassumingly, to startle us awake with love.
Enter into worship.
Readings: Isaiah 49:1-7 † Psalm 40:1-11 † 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 † John 1:29-42
About the Art: Bruegel, Pieter, 1564-1638. Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=58375 [retrieved January 9, 2023]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pieter_Bruegel_the_ Elder_-_The_Sermon_of_Saint_John_the_Baptist_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg.
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