Last Sunday, we met John the Baptist; a powerful, fearless prophet, like the prophets of ancient Israel. In today’s Gospel, John has been imprisoned by King Herod, and will soon be executed. John sends messengers to Jesus, with a question that reflects his own uncertainty. John prophesied the coming of the Messiah, but he expected a king who would sit in judgement. The prophecy of Isaiah in today’s First Reading, with its promise of the ‘vengeance’ and ‘retribution’ of God, reflects the hopes of many in Israel at that time. Jesus’ reply is meant both as a reassurance and a challenge to John. The kingdom of heaven is at hand; Jesus is bringing life and healing for God’s people. The prophecies are being fulfilled, as John foretold. But Jesus comes with mercy and not vengeance; forgiveness and not retribution. The powers of evil will be judged and defeated – not by violence, but by love and mercy. So Jesus challenges John to open his heart to God’s ways; to keep faith, and to recognise that Jesus truly is the one who is to come. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, we too are challenged to recognise the child in the manger as our Saviour.