Advent 3B (12/17/2017)

Lessons:Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 Psalm 126 or St. Luke 1:46b-55 1st Thessalonians 5:16-24 St. John 1:6-8, 19-28

Prayer of the Day: Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God, and open our ears to the words of your prophets, that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

1.6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

19 This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” 23 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.

24 Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, 27the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” 28 This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

St. John 1:6-8, 19-28, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

John: Witness to the Light

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. [The Gospel according to St. John 1:1-5]

These opening words of St. John’s Gospel make up one of the most beautiful and powerful passages in our Bible. While the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) introduce us to Jesus in simple, concrete, human terms, St. John speaks in lofty terms about God: who exists before all else; who speaks creation into being; who is the source of life; whose gift of life becomes the light for all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Now, in verse six, the narrative shifts from creation to John, the one sent to prepare the people for the arrival of God’s Messiah, and the contrast continues. The Synoptics witness to camel hair, leather belts, locust & wild honey meals, fiery sermons on the shore, and dramatic baptismal rituals in the waters of the Jordan. John the Evangelist (the author of The Gospel According to St. John) describes John (the one who prepares for Jesus) in a different manner: sent from God; witness to testify to the light; inspiring all people to believe through him.

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.

John is described by all the Gospel writers as the one who fulfills the ancient promise of the prophets. But here in the fourth Gospel, John’s ministry is also one of testifying to the light, making a witness to his listeners of the difference this Coming One will make in their lives.

And so our Advent season of preparing for Christ is bathed in God’s holy light. As the ancient liturgy proclaims, “Jesus Christ is the light of the world; the light no darkness can overcome.” The light of Christ shines into the darkest corners of our lives. We become aware that we are never alone. Whatever difficulties we face, we do so accompanied by the promise and presence of our God. And as the image points out to us: the darker the darkness, the more powerful the light.

Advent is a time to give thanks for the light of Christ that shines in the darkness. It is also a time for us to join John it making witness to this light. We live in a world where darkness is prevalent. But we bear the gift of Christ to this world, offering words of hope and peace to those who are in need. May we open our hearts to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit, that through us others might come to see the light of Christ.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What is unique about the way John is described in the fourth Gospel?
  2. How does John’s ministry help people “make straight the way of the Lord?”
  3. When challenged by the religious leaders of his day, how does John respond?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How has God been a source of light and life for me?
  2. Is there anyone in my circle of influence who is struggling with darkness?
  3. How might my witness — the story of my faith — be an inspiration to others?