First Sunday after Christmas – December 31, 2017
John 1:19-34 and Psalm 32:1-2
They came to the river seeking, asking, hoping. At the edge of the Jordan, they stood. Some were wondering, “Could this be the One?” The Messiah, the Christ, the saviour of the nation? Some were hoping, “Could it be my turn?” Could this be the time my broken past is washed away and cleansed and healed?
Some at the river were questioning, “Why does he do this?” “This is a waste of time, if he is not the One – which he obviously isn’t.”
Splash – more water, another woman baptised, another man coming up from the river with hope, another child given an experience of faith. He paused… I imagine him laughing. John the Baptist from the fourth gospel isn’t a hell-fire preacher. There are no calls to repent, no accusations of a brood of vipers, of the hypocrites, who pile on regulations for people who are just trying to live faithfully. John speaks plainly – I’m not the one. I’m not even those other ones. I make the Word known, but I’m not the Word.
“In the beginning was the Word. I am a voice. I’m the signpost, not the destiny” says John the Baptiser.
Can you picture this scene from our scripture reading today? You’ve probably noticed we’ve skipped a few decades since last week’s thoughts of the birth of Jesus, gosh last week, our Christ Child was just born! Fast-forward to our reading today… John the Baptist was Jesus’ relative through Elizabeth who was a cousin of Mary’s. Today we look ahead and it confirms that baby Jesus did in fact grow up to be what God had promised us, a Messiah, a saviour, one who could wash our sins away.
Without this piece of the story that was read as a follow-up today, we can definitely experience disillusionment some 20 centuries later. Christmas Day has come and gone…the days that follow are often somewhat of a let-down, anti-climatic, it’s over. Sure there is the Church Christmas pageant and the Christmas Eve service where we ponder the real reason for the season, but beyond that, it can sometimes feel so commercial and so meaningless. I recently heard a rather sarcastic quote, “Christmas: the celebration of the birth of commercialism, Oh yea, and Jesus.”
Truly there is much hype and busyness—Go! Go! Go! Buy! Buy! Buy! Cook! Cook! Cook! Making gift lists, buying and then wrapping them, planning and prepping and cooking all of the meals, there’s family gatherings, parties and meals with friends, children or parents who have come across whole provinces to be with us. All of this activity and preparation leading up to the perfect Christmas day and then… it’s over! Full-on exhaustion.
Is that all there is to Christmas?
If a person has little or no faith, then it really is a let down. But if we truly believe in the Christmas story; of God sending his only son to live among us, to lead and to teach, then post-Christmas is a time for celebration and a deep feeling of comfort and assurance.
In verse 29 of our Gospel reading from John, we hear that Jesus is the Lamb of God
who takes away the sin of the world…we are in a new and restored relationship with God…there is no sin between us and God, due to the Lamb of God who came from God’s realm above.
The description of John the Baptist in our reading today is a lesson in itself. It is very refreshing to find such a humble man, especially compared to our present day narcissistic world. John would have made a terrible reality TV star. He is about as far from the Kardashian clan as you can get. He acts in stark contrast to our twenty-first century celebrity culture, where so many have trained a big blazing spotlight upon their own lives. Some find themselves so fascinating that every move they make is worthy of broadcasting to the world.
We “tweet” our choice of purchasing a vanilla latte and wearing plaid socks. We YouTube ourselves singing and dancing in our living rooms. We cover our Facebook wall with every thought that skitters through our minds.
John the Baptist refused to step into the spotlight. He knew that his divinely gifted mission was to bear witness to the light, not to stand centre stage in the spotlight.
Let us all bear witness to this light that we are reminded of today from the scriptures. A week ago we had the promise of the Christ Child and now this week we are given much more evidence of the work Jesus actually did as he grew up and fulfilled the promise. Let Christmas not be a time for letdown and anti-climax, let it be a time to start anew. Perhaps it could be a time for broken pasts to be washed away and cleansed and healed—the perfect time at this juncture between 2017 and 2018.
Starting fresh, know that God is with you, God has got your back–the real meaning of Christmas. Amen
Copyright 2017 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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