12/03/2017 = John 1:6-9, 19-28 = “What Is Our Reflection?”

CLICK, CLICK, CLICK, to hear this Advent Message number One.

Mark Wheeler

John 1:6-9, 19-28

“What Is Our Reflection?”

12/03/2017, First Sunday of Advent

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

God of hope and promise, be with us throughout this Advent season and d raw us ever closer as we journey together toward the stable and the birth of your Son, our Savior. Amen.

 

On this First Sunday of Advent, the traditional theme is Hope. And this year, it seems, we are in need of more hope than in recent years.

Hope for peace in the Middle East.

Hope for safety for female co-workers.

Hope for health and resources and peace of mind.

Hope for political bipartisanship.

Hope for fewer Tweets, and hope for better interpersonal relationships.

 

But we can approach our seasons of despair with faith and hope in God’s presence and power, or with empty hopelessness and darkness.

 

It’s like the story of the two children who were each taken to their respective storage rooms. One room was full of brand new toys, and the other was filled with hay and horse manure.

The first child looked at the first room and cried because all of those wonderful toys would probably soon be broken. The other child was in the other room shoveling like crazy, “I know there has to be a horse in here somewhere!” she said.

 

Today’s Advent reading offers such hope, perfect hope, hope that shines light in darkness. And today’s Advent reading offers us an opportunity to bring that hope to a world that desperately needs it.

 

Hear the Word of God from one of Jesus’ first followers, as we read John 1:6-9, 19-28…. —-

There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world….

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

John, the Gospel-writer, the Apostle, begins his version of the story of Jesus, not with a manger scene or a virgin or shepherds or magi; he starts with those almost-magical, certainly mystical, words, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God.” And then he tells how this Word is responsible for all of creation, and that He (notice that John the Gospel-writer makes sure that we understand that this “Word” is personal) is the light of that light of the world; the John he writes of is not that Word which is God; instead he is a witness to testify concerning that lighted-Word!

 

John goes back to the story about this Word stepping into this world He had made, and living with the people He had called His own. The Christmas message here is that He came and “dwelt among us” (KJV), and all who receive Him and believe Him have the right to be called children of God!

 

But the Advent message continues again with more about John the Baptist. There must have been some confusion about John the Baptist’s role in salvation history, because John the Gospel-writer goes into some detail about John the Baptist’s self-identification.

20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “So then, who the heck are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

Scuttle-butt and rumors had apparently spread that this one who was baptizing a baptism of repentance in the Jordan River must be the Messiah, the Christ, the one anointed by God as the King of kings, who would rescue the Israelites from the Roman oppression. People thought that John the Baptist (which was not his name, by the way – people would have called him John the son of Zechariah), people thought that he was their Savior! “I am not the Messiah.”

So the investigation continued. From the Old Testament prophet Malachi who promised that God would send the even Older Testament prophet Elijah to come before “the day of the Lord”, they interrogated him, “Are you Elijah?“I am not.”

In frustration now, they keep digging: “Are you the prophet?” Scholars argue over which “the Prophet” they may have had in mind, but I think the reference is related to a Deuteronomy 18 prophecy, and that it refers to Moses, the one who saved them, rescued them, delivered them from bondage in Egypt. John’s answer: “No.” (I often wonder what his tone of voice was at this point: “Nope”? [like, non-chalant, just keep guessing], “NO!”? [like, “leave me alone!”], or something in between.)

But I don’t wonder about the tone of voice of the questioners. They were exasperated! “Who ARE you?! Give us an answer! What have you to say for yourself?!23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”

 

I believe these inquirers had hopes that were being dashed! They hoped John was the guy! But John kept pointing them to a Bigger Hope!

That’s our Advent message this morningpoint people to the Bigger Hope! Point our children and our husbands to Hope Bigger than the presents underneath the tree. Point each other to an even Bigger Hope than family getting together for Christmas dinner. Point friends and family to Bigger Hope than good health (which lasts, at best, for only a lifetime). Point political foes to a Bigger Hope than even peace between oppositions…. There’s something Bigger – and I’m not just talking about Pie-in-the-sky Eternity-Hope….

 

After all the exhausting questions asked of John, with no satisfying answers, they finally ask what he’s doing baptizing people in the Jordan! This baptism thing wasn’t like a brand new phenomenon, but it certainly was not Jewish religious business as usual. This was something significant, and they wanted to know who gave John the authority to do such a thing! A baptism of repentance for the sake of the Kingdom of God?! What is this about?!

Here’s where John’s answer shocked every one. 26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

John’s authority comes from God. He is preparing the way for the Messiah to come. And, just to be clear, this did not happen on Christmas morn. This was 30 years later, as full adults. And the Advent message is that John was still Reflecting the Light of Christ for the world around him.

 

And that’s our Advent message, too. By pointing out the Bigger Hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we too can reflect the light of Christ for our family and friends, our neighbors and associates, our classmates and coworkers. Reflect the light of Christ and point people beyond their despair and darkness to the Hope of the Gospel, for today as well as into eternity. Amen.

 

Resources:

Beasley-Murray, George R.; Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 36: John; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1987; Pp. 11-24.

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