Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 Psalm 126 (UM847) 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 John 1:6-8, 19-28
December 17, 2017
According to the Christian calendar this is known as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means Rejoice. The Advent candle we light today is known as the candle of Joy. It is interesting to me that we celebrate a time of rejoicing during this darkest and often saddest time of the year. While many of us are trying to celebrate the joy of the nearness of Christmas, we often find ourselves depressed by the decreasing sunlight, by the absence of those we have lost or who are away from us for the first time, or simply by the stress of trying to make the time perfect. Because of this natural depression, many churches hold a “Blue Christmas” service to acknowledge our mixed emotions during this holiday season.
So how do we, how can we, rejoice in the midst of this time of darkness? I believe that we rejoice because we remember that God sent God’s Word, the Light of the World into a world that was suffering in darkness. Jesus came into a world just like ours to give light to the world. He came to remind us of God’s love. He came to show us how to live. He came to save us from our sin. He came to restore the loving relationship with God and with our neighbor that God originally intended for us. He came to be the light of our lives.
John the Evangelist tells us that John the Baptist came to be a witness to God’s light. He tells us that John was not the Light, but he was simply a voice calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” John the Baptist’s voice was different from the others who came claiming to be prophets or even claiming to be the messiah. According to the Gospel of Luke, John was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and his words reflected that. Even more, there were a few things about John that teach us about our faith today. He knew who he was. He never claimed to be Messiah or even a prophet. He knew he was the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” He knew his purpose was to baptize listeners with water signifying cleansing from sin. He knew his importance. He knew that as great as God had made him, he was still unworthy to do the most menial tasks for the true light that had come into the world. As John’s gospel reminds us, he was not the light, but he came to prepare the world to receive the true light.
I believe that we are called to be like John. We are called to be witnesses to the power of Christ in this world. We are empowered and emboldened by the Holy Spirit as soon as we accept the grace of God offered by Jesus. Like John we are now voices crying in the modern wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord.” Like John we have a purpose in the world. Our purpose is to point others to the return of Christ. We do this by sharing the love that God has for us. We share that love that always calls us and the world back to our original state of loving relationship that God has always intended for us. We know who we are, but we also know whose we are. We confess that the light we let shine before all people is not our own light but the light of Christ that shines in and through us.
In this time of seasonal darkness we realize that we are still a people who live in darkness. But even in this darkest part of the year we rejoice! We rejoice because even now the light of Christ shines in the darkness and the darkness will NOT overcome it. And we have the privilege of being witnesses to that light! Thank God. Amen.