One of my favorite Christmas Carols is “Do You Hear What I Hear.” One of the things I like best about the song it how the story gets passed along – the night wind tells the lamb, who tells the shepherd boy, who tells the king, who tells everyone.
I like how the story is told just a little bit differently each time. The wind talks about a star, the lamb about a song on the night, the shepherd boy talks about a child shivering in the cold and the king announces the child will bring peace, goodness and light to all. The story was experienced in different ways by each storyteller, who told others about what they had experienced.
It is just that kind of story – it begs to be told again and again.
The portion of the story we hear today starts out: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” And he said to the people who came to the wilderness, “do you see what I see”. He answered the priests and the Levites who wanted to know if he was the Christ, “do you know what I know. There is one standing in your midst, right now, whom you do not know, but whom I am unworthy to even untie the laces of his sandals.” You know, John didn’t really answer their last question. He totally ignored their question about his authority to baptize – he was too intent on proclaiming the coming of Jesus! John could not contain telling what he knew – the good news of God coming among us.
“There was a man sent from 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.”
Last week we talked about John and how his job was to prepare the way of the Lord, to preach repentance in order that hearts would turn back to God. This week we hear about another part of John’s job - he was sent from God to testify to the light. That was his purpose – to point out the star, the song, the child, the one who brings goodness and light. When he is questioned by the priests and Levites, he says two significant things: He is not the Christ and the one who is the Christ is here.
John was very clear about who he is and who he is not. And he knew what his purpose was – to be the voice calling out in the wilderness. To point to Jesus. To proclaim the coming of the Lord.
And John does proclaim him. In the very next verse after the end of our reading, John says “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
“There was a man sent from God”. John’s story is also our story. John was sent from God to testify to Jesus. And, like John, we are also sent, from Jesus, to testify, - to point to Jesus, who points to God.
We point to Jesus when we recognize the “God” moments in someone’s life, and open their eyes to the presence of God with them. We point to Jesus when we are agents of God’s love in the lives of others – “Jesus with skin on” to the people around us. We point to Jesus in the way we live our lives, the way we treat others. We point to Jesus when we gather in worship and around the bread and the wine.
“There was a man sent from God. His name was John.” And here we are, sent by Jesus, called by his name. We are sent to witness to the Light.
We are called to be storytellers. And what a story we have to tell! We announce that the coming reign of God is here! Isaiah says it is good news for the oppressed, healing for the brokenhearted, liberty for the captives, and that justice and righteousness flow freely(Isaiah 61:1-11). Mary sings of the lowly being lifted up and the hungry being satisfied with good things (Luke 1:46-55). Light has come into the world – God’s light - and the darkness put up a good fight against the light. The darkness still puts up a good fight against the light; the darkness doesn’t know that it was beaten by the coming of a child, and a dark day on a cross, and a bright morning where the tomb was empty and nothing would ever be the same again.
Think about it. Think about the story we have to tell, of how God comes to us. Think about what we have seen and heard and experienced of God’s grace and love. How can we stay in our seats! How can we not cry out!
There was one sent from God, and that one is you. And me. And all Christians everywhere. We are called to be that voice calling out in the wilderness of a world that doesn’t recognize Jesus standing in its midst.