Lectionary Text: John 1: 6-8, (19-28)
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.
Once again, we encounter John, who we now call John the Baptist. But he’s really John the Witness. Here, we are told that John is but a witness to something bigger. He is there to point to the light of Christ that is coming. But what makes John’s message uncomfortable is that he is always pointing to that which the light illumines. For the writer of the Gospel According to John, the Logos was the true light bursting forth into humanity. Rather than an angel announcing the birth of a baby, the writer is using John as a witness to point to that light as well as the purpose of that light. We love the image of light but sometimes we are uncomfortable with full illumination. I mean, here’s John, running around like a wild man in the wilderness preaching repentance, calling for us to change, and just being really loud. Our reaction in this season is to respond with: “John…shhhh! You’ll wake the baby.”
After all, this is the Season when we celebrate the birth of Christ. This is the Season when we want to give gifts to each other and spend time with our families enjoying a veritable plethora of high-sugar baked goods. This is the Season when we want to decorate our houses with festive reminders of the joyous season and get dressed up and go to parties to celebrate the same. This is the Season when we want everything to be joyous and beautiful and perfect. But this John character just gets in the way, doesn’t he? Doesn’t this come later in the Scriptures? Doesn’t this come at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry? Why do we have to think about this now in the middle of the birth stories?
The reason that we read about John is because it’s not about John. He knew that. Scary as he sometimes is, you can’t help but admire him. He did not stand on convention and he really didn’t care at all what people thought. He had one purpose. He was to point to the Light. In fact, when you think about it, he seemed to TRY to deflect attention away from himself. Maybe that’s the point. He was not the Light; he was the deflector. It was his purpose to turn the attention aside and recast it toward the One who WAS the Light. God created the Light for us so that we can see the Way, so that we can feel God’s Presence in our lives. God created the Light that it might shine into our lives. But God also created us in the image of the Godself that we might be able to also shine the Light away from ourselves, to deflect the Light back to God. If we do nothing but bask in this incredible Light, we are surrounded in shadows. But if we become a deflector of that Light, then the Light illumines even the darkness.
In this Advent season, we, too, are called to be witnesses of the Light. It is not about us. We, too, are called to turn God’s Light back toward God. We are called to be Light-benders. And you know what? The baby’s already awake. We just need to turn the Light toward the Christ that we might realize that.
In this season of Advent, give yourself the gift of turning the Light away from yourself that you might finally see the Glory of God.
Grace and Peace,
(And if you’re interested in the full notes from the week’s lectionary passages, check out http://journeytopenuel.blogspot.com/ )