A sermon preached on Sunday, December 16, 2013 at Heritage United Methodist Church on John 1:1-18.
Lord Jesus, I know that I do not have all the answers. But you, gracious God, sent your Word, to teach us and make us new. You give us your Spirit so we can understand what you have to say to us. Come to us now and shed light on your word that we may be filled with grace and truth. Amen.
The world is often a dark place. Friday we were reminded of this darkness by a devastating school shooting that left 26 dead. This violent action taken against children, teachers and family leave us with many questions. Why did this happen? What are we supposed to do now? And in the words of the Psalms, “How long, O Lord?” These questions can leave us feeling lost in the darkness, not knowing which way to turn or how we can recover from such a wound. And there are no easy answers.
Sadly, this darkness is nothing new. We have experienced it before. From shootings in other areas of the country to war around the world, violence destroys life each day. There are places where genocide is still common place, where women are raped and abused and simply walking to the grocery store is not safe. We come to these moments not only acknowledging our own losses, but also remembering that our world is in pain and suffering. We are crying out for someone to rescue us from this destruction and terror.
And in the midst of this darkened world, God made a choice. God chose to send Jesus, the Word made flesh, to a people lost in darkness. John 1:14 says, “the Word became flesh and lived among us.” This living among us is a word that means tabernacle, literally, “pitched his tent.” This word tabernacle reminds us of how God dwelt with the people in the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Jesus also made his home and dwelling place among the people. He is God incarnate, embodying the love and knowledge of God. The truth that we find in Christ brings us ultimate freedom. And in times such as these, we need to see and hear the truth. We need to hear that because the Word became flesh- lived, died, and rose again, that we can also have new life in Christ, freeing us from the bonds of sin and death.
In John 1:6 we hear, “There was a man sent by god, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.” John the Baptist comes to proclaim that Christ is coming in more ways than one. Not only will he baptize persons later in the gospels before Jesus begins his full time ministry, but John testifies to Christ even in the womb. When Mary visited Elizabeth, the Baby John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb in the presence of Christ. Elizabeth is the first person in the gospels to claim aloud that Jesus is Lord, affirming her son’s excitement and making a way for Christ in the world. John the Baptist points to Christ with his words and actions. John was saying, it’s not about me, it’s about God. It’s not about me, it’s about the Messiah. After all, he himself was not the light, but he was a witness to the light.
A witness is one who testifies to an event or the truth. Those who herald Christ announce God’s presence in the world in Jesus Christ by testifying to his life and ministry. During advent we are all invited to proclaim that Christ is coming into the world. We each have a choice to point to Christ, or to point to something other than Christ- which will we choose? And when we choose to point to Jesus, we are saying that it isn’t about us, but it is about a greater truth that exists in the world. The truth of the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ.
There were others who testified and proclaimed Christ’s coming, such as the angels. Angels are messengers of God. An angel named Gabriel is the chief messenger in our advent texts. This angel appears to Zechariah in Luke 1 saying, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.” Gabriel visits Mary with the words, “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you” and “do not be afraid.” Another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, “do not be afraid.” Can you see a pattern? God is with you, do not be afraid. And when the angel came to the shepherds in the fields, the angel said, “Do not be afraid, I am bringing you good news, of great joy for all the people.”
Can it be good news? Can we be joyful? But it is the truth, it is the good news. God is with you, do not be afraid. Christ is coming! We desperately need to hear this message this year. Hurricanes? God is with you. Floods? Do not be afraid. School shooting? Christ is coming. Death? Jesus is the light of the world. Destruction? Jesus is Lord. You see the good news is still good. The good news is still good. Repeat this after me, The good news, is still good. I want you to turn to your neighbor and say “the good news, is still good.” Our job is to proclaim this good news from the roof tops, in our homes, in our places of employment, to our friends, and even to ourselves. And we need to hear it often.
Jesus Christ is coming into the world to make everything right. Christ comes to shed light on our fundamental need for God and to invite us to join in the work Christ is doing in the world. We can join in that work by offering love, peace, and hope to a desolate place. We can join in Christ’s work by joining in solidarity and prayer with those who suffer and with those who mourn. We can join in that work by using our power to serve others rather than oppress. We can be a part of Christ’s life by washing our neighbors’ feet and speaking up for those who have no voice.
You are Christ’s heralds. You are the ones who announce that Jesus is coming to release the captives and set at liberty those who are oppressed. You are the ones who have come to this sanctuary to receive light that you might hold out a candle for another.
Today, you get to carry the light into a dark world and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. You get to tell the world that the darkness will never overcome the light. You get to speak the truth- that the good news is still good. Amen.
Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: Year C. (2012). Allen, Andrews, Ottoni-Wilhelm, Editors. Westminster-John Knox.
Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 4. Bartlett and Taylor, Editors. Westminster-John Knox.