December 17, 2017
John 1:6-8, 19-28 Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
“I’m Coming Out”
It was a Christmas pageant presented by a class of four-year-olds and it was an evening to remember. It began with the three virgin Marys marching out onto the stage. They stood there waving to their parents. It’s not every Christmas pageant that has three virgin Marys, but over the years the school had acquired three Mary costumes, and so, quite naturally the script was revised. This gave a chance for more children to be involved and kept down the squabbling over who got the starring roles. The two Josephs walked up behind the Marys. Then twenty little angels came out. They were dressed in white robes and huge gauze wings. They were followed by twenty little shepherds, dressed in burlap sacks. They carried an array of objects that were supposed to be crooks.
“It was at this point that the problem occurred. During the dress rehearsal, the teacher had used chalk to draw circles on the floor to mark where the angels were supposed to stand and crosses to mark the spots of the shepherds. But the children had practiced with their regular clothes on. So, on the night of the pageant, the angels came walking out with their beautiful gauze wings and stood on their circles. However, their huge wings covered the crosses of the shepherds as well. So when the time came for the shepherds to find their places, they did not know where to go because the angels took up all their space.
“There was one little boy who became extremely frustrated and angry over the whole experience. He finally spied his teacher behind the curtains and shocked everyone when he said in a loud stage whisper heard by everyone, ‘Because of these blankety-blank angels, I can’t find the cross!’”
Like the little boy in the pageant, we are seeking to find our place in this story. I have to admit that I was really disappointed when I saw that John the Baptist is back again this week. He was front and center last week and while I said clearly that all four gospels agree that we have to go through John to get to Jesus, I didn’t mean we should spend half of our Advent texts on him. It looks like God is not so concerned with what I think about this!
One of the interesting things about this text is that it is about John’s identity. There are several statements about who John is NOT: John is not the light. He is not Elijah. He is not the prophet. Then we hear who he IS: John is the one who will testify to the light. He is the voice crying out in the wilderness to make straight the way of the Lord.
The question, “Who am I?” is a good one for us to consider in this season as we prepare for the coming of Christ. The Isaiah passage this morning asks us to reflect on who we are and what we will do as God’s people. Listen to some of the lines:
“God has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners…
to comfort all who mourn.
(from Isaiah 61:1-2)
When we reflect on the meaning of this season, we can see that it has to do with teaching us who we are in the world. We discover our identity as Christ comes among us again to show us how to be in the world. We know the longing to become the one God created us to be. Each week as we light the Advent candle, we have made a commitment to live hope, peace, and joy in the world. When we do that, we remember the words of John’s gospel – we are not the light, but we testify to the light with our lives and with our actions. We may never know what a difference we make or how desperate someone else may be to see a glimmer of light. My friend Jan Richardson’s husband Gary died four years ago during Advent. Jan reminds me that, “it is no small thing to bear witness to the light when everything seems dark.” She says, “It matters that we hold the light for one another. It matters that we bear witness to the Light that holds us all, that we testify to this Light that shines its infinite love and mercy on us across oceans, across borders, across time.” (http://adventdoor.com/2017/12/11/advent-3-bearing-the-light/)
Michelangelo was walking with a friend along the street of an Italian city when they came upon a block of stone left by the workman from a construction project. The master of hammer and chisel paused, walked around the stone, looked at it carefully, touched it here and there, and said, "There is an angel in that stone, and I must bring it out." God calls us to come out of the closet and bring the light of Christ into the world with our actions.
I wonder if God looks at each of us and says, “Christ is in that person and I must bring him out.” Our role in this season of preparation is to look within and see the Christ within so that our lives can reflect Christ to the world. Let us come out and reflect the light of Christ that lives within us. It matters.