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Third Sunday of Advent, Dec. 10, 2023 Sermon - Pastor Marie Meeks

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Grace and peace to you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

In today’s Gospel, we hear another story of John the baptizer. Except in this story, he isn’t called the baptizer. He is just “John.” In fact, in this passage, we hear more about who John isn’t than who he is. “Who are you?” the Levites ask. “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” John wants to make it very clear that he is not the expected Messiah. And when they press him to answer, he will only say, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ ” as the prophet Isaiah said.

 

John knows he is not the star of this story. John’s whole reason for doing and saying what he did was not to draw attention to himself, but to point to another. Someone who will be the Light of the World. You may have noticed that we skip over some verses in this Gospel reading. What we do not hear today is the Gospel writer’s description of Jesus:  “The Word,” and “The Light.” “The Light that banishes all darkness.” This is what John is talking about when he says, “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.”

 

We are called to be witnesses to that Light, as well. I attended the weekly clergy meeting that discusses the readings for the upcoming Sunday. And naturally, we started talking about what a witness is. We talked about someone who testifies in court, or someone who tells about something unusual that they have seen. We also talked about ourselves and all Christians as witnesses. We are witnesses to the amazing wonderful gift God has given us in Jesus.

 

But how do we share this Good News? How do we witness? We can use words, and tell about how our lives are different because we are followers of Jesus. We can talk about the love of God, which is greater than anyone can imagine – or the grace God gives us, by forgiving us when we sin and turn away from God.

 

I remember a story I once heard about a farmer who was out in his yard fixing the tractor, when a traveling preacher came by. After they introduced themselves, the preacher asked, “Sir, are you a Christian?” The farmer stood there for a while thinking. Finally, he said, “You know, I could tell you I am a Christian, but you don’t know me, I could be lying. So if you really want to know if I am a Christian, you’d better go ask my neighbor, or the shopkeeper at the general store. They know me. They have seen what kind of a person I am. They would know if I am a Christian or not.

 

I think the farmer had it right. While we can say we are followers of Jesus, it is by our actions that people will know who we are. It’s kind of like the police officer who was following this car. He saw the person giving the finger to someone who had cut him off, and he could hear them swearing a blue streak. Finally, the cop pulled them over and demanded their license and registration. After a while, he returned to the car and apologized to the driver. When they asked, “Why did you pull me over?” the officer replied, “I saw your bumper sticker that says, “I love Jesus.” And I heard you swearing and making rude gestures, so I thought the car was stolen! It is by our actions we witness best to what it means to be a Christian. Amen.

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