Today we relight the first two candles of the Advent wreath. The candle of HOPE and the candle of PEACE. Now we light the third candle of Advent. This is the candle of JOY. As the coming of Jesus, our Savior, draws nearer, our joy builds with our anticipation of his birth. From the Book of Isaiah we read the words of our Lord:
“But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.”—Isaiah 65:18
From the New Testament, the words of Paul to the people of the church at Galatia:
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.”—Galatians 5:22-25
Let us pray: We joyfully praise you, O Lord, for the fulfillment of your promise of a Savior and what that means in our lives. Thank you for the gift of salvation through the birth of your son, Jesus. Create us anew as we wait and help us to see your glory as you fill our lives with your living Spirit. Amen.
The Gospel of John 1:6-8,19-28
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
The first chapter of the Gospel is a wonderful poetic description of what it means to call Jesus the Christ. He is the light coming into the darkness, the Word of God made flesh. John the Baptist is a prophet who has an important ministry in his own right. He calls people to repentance and eventually dies as a martyr for daring to confront petty earthly tyrants with the word of the Lord. John, for the most part, he just points people to Jesus. His primary role is not as one who baptizes but one who testifies to the light coming into the world, a very human witness to the event. God is about ordering a new creation, a new presence of light in the world but it necessitates a fellow human to point to its presence, otherwise, human as we are, we might not see it. That human is John. John reminds us of the importance of pointing to even the tiniest light and saying “Look, behold, the Lamb of God!” In this season of Advent that is typically described as one of preparation, what does it mean to prepare? Maybe, preparation means simply adjusting our eyes to see light when there seems to be none. God calls us to be witnesses like John who point to Jesus and say “Look!” so that all might know God’s prersence of peace. Perhaps pointing and saying, “Look!” can be our preparing the way. The trick is to bear witness to this truth with humility. For John, that meant directing people away from himself and toward Jesus. Notice how people try not to let him do that. “Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” Remember John’s theme was “it’s not about me.” Again how important those words continue to be today.
Let us pray: Faithful God, as we continue this Advent journey, teach us to turn to you in times of joy and pleasure as well as we do when faced with fear and sorrow. Help us to put our differences behind us and to unite behind the great commission of Jesus to make disciples of all nations and all people. This we pray in your name. Amen