Summary: Only by wading into the life that Christ offers and letting it wash away our sins, our false identity, our injustice and selfishness, our commitment to violence will we be recognized and worship the One who is coming in Bethlehem.
John 1:6-8, 19-28 sets the stage for Christ’s ministry. John the Baptist was the witness to the light of Christ. He was the light that would lead people to Christ. Jesus would fulfill the expectations the Jews had regarding the long-expected Messiah, but not in the way many Jews expected. He would meet these expectations through love and not by force as a military ruler who would drive out the Romans.
John the Baptist’s baptism with water was a sign of repentance, but Christ’s baptism was with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate purifier. Christ does not just come once with the baptism with the Holy Spirit. He comes to us all the time. He is not in some far off “heaven’, but is right here among us. He is always working in the background of our lives and he is always there for us, especially when we need him. (Pause)
If Christ is the light, and we’re just meant to witness to the light, what does it mean if Jesus says to us that we are the light of the world? Just like John the Baptist prepared people for the coming of the Messiah, we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ in our lives. We are called to witness to Christ by word and deed, in good times and bad, when it suits us and when it doesn’t, when it is dangerous and when it isn’t. We are to point people to the one who taught us to care for the less fortunate in society.
We are called to risk everything that John the Baptist risked, and that includes the risk that the person we are waiting for to do God’s will may reveal that God’s will is not identical to ours, that God’s plans for the world may not be the same as ours. John the Baptist prepared the way not for God’s people to return to the Promised Land, but for God to come to us. When we have Christ in our lives, we no longer have to be afraid. (Pause)
Belief is the purpose of the testimony of both John the Baptist and the Gospel of John. To walk in the Spirit and not get rid of His authority in our lives means we immediately obey His initial promptings. Every area of our lives has been brought into submission to His will. No matter what happens or what He requires of us, we do not complain or become upset. Instead we follow Him in faithful obedience and joy.
John the Baptist made an astonishing statement when he said that he was not worthy to untie the straps of Jesus’ sandals. Such a task was usually done only by slaves, people whose lives were not their own. John the Baptist stated the he was not worthy to do even that. When we see that kind of utter selflessness shine forth, we know we are in the presence of something very precious. John the Baptist’s example is a powerful one for all Christians to follow. People such as health care workers are also powerful examples. They humble themselves to provide compassionate care to the sick-work that other people cannot or will not do.
We betray our Christian calling whenever we forget our servant role; whenever the institution becomes more important; whenever power is our preferred mode of operation; whenever we cling to our status and office; whenever we become just like everyone else in society; whenever we blend in. Instead, we must be like John the Baptist. Our voice must be heard in the desert called out modern society. We have to recognize our need for him and confess our need of his grace and love. Only then will we truly experience him as the Lord and Saviour of our lives. (Pause)
Perhaps the voice we hear calling from the desert is telling us today that the way to prepare for the coming of the Messiah is to do the best we can. We can do that by not going off in seclusion. We are to do the best we can in our daily tasks, but at the same time we must stop and ask ourselves “What do you want me to do next Lord?”
God accepts us just the way we are, but he is not willing to leave us the way we are. He wants righteousness from us, but we do not have to earn his love. He calls us to justice and compassion, but first he offers his own justice and compassion to us. Only by wading into the life that Christ offers and letting it wash away our sins, our false identity, our injustice and selfishness, our commitment to violence will we be recognized and worship the One who is coming in Bethlehem. As disturbing and inconvenient and disruptive as it may be amid the celebrations of the Christmas season, we have to drown our sins in the waters of repentance if necessary if we are to know the identity of the One whose birth we will soon be celebrating.