I left it rather late to walk the dog yesterday.
It was already dark by the time we left the house and headed down to the park...As you might have guessed from the temperature, it was a very clear night so we had a good view of the moon, shining brightly to light our way.
But the amazing thing about the moon, of course, is that of itself it has no light at all.
It shines only with the reflected light of the sun.
If that light were extinguished, the moon itself would shine no more.
And here John the Baptist stands as the moon, to the sun that is Jesus.
He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness to that light….
He bore witness because he too shone with reflected glory….and he was in no doubt that his role in the gospel was not centre stage.
His calling was to be a sign, pointing the way to Jesus.
We too share his calling to reflect the light of Christ and to so shine that others can see the way…
There was a man sent from God whose name was John.
Not much of an introduction, but then John was not one who cared about such things. He stepped out of his priestly heritage, shrugged off the wonders that surrounded his own birth.
You could imagine him saying, again and again “It’s not about me”.
John was quite happy with a life of wandering in the wilderness, rough, unfashionable clothes, basic food, and an unshakeable, uncompromising message.
Uncompromising, but compelling.
So compelling that people assumed that he must be the Messiah, and were completely nonplussed when John said,
That silences the questioners for a moment, but then they are off again.
“Well, if it’s not you, where IS the Messiah? He must be close, if prophets like you are abroad.”
"He is here. He is among you," says John.
And that was almost as startling as anything that had gone before.
Imagine, you have been waiting and watching for the Messiah all your life long, your people have looked for him for centuries, and now you are told that he’s hear among you already. Surely not…
The Messiah arriving unrecognised? Unthinkable…
But John is insistent, absolutely confident in that he has heard God aright, and that he knows his own place in God’s
Thus he can say, with no false modesty,"I am the voice crying in the wilderness…Just as Isaiah told you, the day of the Lord is coming – prepare yourselves for it".
John´s message is compelling,
He believes it himself and is wholly committed to his task, in the tradition of the great Old Testament prophets.
He stands alongside Isaiah, crying in the wilderness, and his words have authority because, of course, he points away from himself and towards Jesus.
He is the moon, not the sun, remember..
"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."
And this is the mark of all those who aspire to preach the true Gospel.
We must remember always that the Gospel is all about Jesus, the Jesus who took as his mission statement, when he preached in the synagogue at Nazareth, these very words of Isaiah.
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach the gospel..”
John points to Jesus, and Jesus comes, not with a teaching which would imprison us with fear, not with words which would tie us up in knots, but with tidings of great joy and unconditional love.
As the way is made straight, as our lives are put right, so we can know that the good news of hope and freedom is for us as well. This is the promise we hear in Isaiah."He has sent me to bring the good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted; to proclaim liberty to captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord´s favour." "to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning."
Isn’t that fabulous?
No wonder that this 3rd Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, a day for rose vestments and pink candles, a day when all we can do is rejoice...for joy overflows here.
Those words from Isaiah are both the mission statement for Our Lord, and our mission statement too.
The Church exists to invite humanity into the freedom Christ brings – a freedom that excludes nobody...
for the gospel is liberation, justice and joy.
Not hierarchy but equality and inclusion.
Not fear but security hope and love.
So, today let us take John as our model, and share his task as we witness to Christ in our loves, our words, our actions...To speak good news and to BE good news as well
To point to Christ, knowing that any light we may bear is reflected from him…
There was a man (or woman) sent from God, whose name was ...
May God strengthen us as we witness to the Good News each day.
(Reworking a sermon from my 1st year in Cainscross...which still says what I need to remember in this season and every season)