Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dec. 14 sermon, Advent 3B, "It ain't me babe."

Texts: Isaiah and John

Sermon Notes: One of my Christmas memories is looking at Christmas lights with my family. I remember fondly having to be herded into the minivan with my sister at my mom’s insistence to preserve this tradition, and the two of us mocking her with synchronized overly enthusiastic “ooooooohs,” and “aaaaaaaaahs” from the back seat when we would see a house with only the most half-hearted attempt at lighting up the house (if you’d like an example of a half hearted attempt, check out my front porch.)

Today’s scripture tells us that John the Baptist came to testify to the “Light” and that he himself is not the light. What would our fiery John the Baptist think of the light display?

There is one line in that passage that leaped out at me this week as he is there being interrogated by the Pharisees: “I am not.” It reminds me of Bob Dylan’s great song, “It ain’t me babe.”

It seems the interesting thing about JB in this text from John’s Gospel is that he is pretty clear about who he is and who he is not. And maybe we are to learn something from JB’s insistence that he is not the Messiah.

Maybe we are to learn to say that about ourselves. Now, of course we don’t think we are Messiah’s…but there is something in JB’s reaction that is helpful. When asked, he quickly points the attention away from himself and toward the One coming – Jesus. And Jesus did this too. He almost always points attention away from himself and toward God or toward the needs and issues of others – to testify to something much greater!
You know, I bet if we were all honest with ourselves for a moment, I expect most of us might have the notion that religion is about the fulfillment of our hopes. We hope to find peace for our anxious lives, help for the journey.

So we come to church hoping that the music, the scripture and preaching will meet our needs whatever they may be – to have our cup filled to overflowing. We hope to hear interesting sermons that we can use for our lives. If we were all completely honest…most of the time…we come to church for pretty selfish reasons. But that’s understandable, and I don’t think God is angry about our natural aptitude toward self interest.

But, bear with me a moment to say that Advent is often a lesson in humility. It is actually one of the greatest times in the life of our Christian faith where we can say – “It’s not about us…it’s about Jesus”. Because that is what we are supposed to be doing – PREPARING for something much bigger than us! We are reminded in Advent that this is actually the shape of our discipleship – to be the body of Christ in the here and now and point to the way or “testify to the light and love” that is Jesus Christ.

But, we still tend to get caught up in the “maybe it’s about us” idea. In church – we want to have our cups filled; get our own spiritual house or everything in our lives in perfect order to be a good disciple. Friends, while there is real truth in that and we do need to make sure we are in good shape spiritually – we can’t wait forever either – gosh we may never get to a place of perfect order. Because the truth also really is – IT IS IN NO WAY ABOUT US! We must claim as JB did – “No…it’s not me, but it is my job to testify and point the way”.
the hub-bud of Christmas preparation – both in the church and personally with all the shopping and preparations are certainly makes it easy to be “all about us”. We make ourselves absolutely crazy this time of year with stuff, stuff and more stuff that we pile on – in the church we are so busy we can’t even see straight and at home is a frenzy too.

We stay so busy with all the things we think we have to do or need to do or should be doing. And you know what – I just can’t imagine that our Savior who came into this world so humbly, lived as a servant, walked around the desert in sandals intended for us to make the season of his birth so complicated and hectic. He would probably say to us … “get over yourselves”

To juxtapose this mentality with what I see some of you doing, especially this week. We have a group within the church that should be celebrated. Who were involved in a flurry of activity and shopping, but it was for the benefit of others.

It was those who participated in the Angel tree project and brought Christmas gifts to 44 people in our community who would have trouble making ends meet. These are the kinds of gifts that do reflect the gifts of the magi. Giving to glorify God. Taking the attention off ourselves and doing it to testify to the light. Many of you participated in this—thank you.

Also, the gift without any request for recognition of the funds that paid for the reroofing. Isn’t it beautiful! We’re set now for another 30 years, thanks to that gift.

And that my friends, is the real meaning of Jesus coming into the world to walk among us and for this time of Advent preparation. In this passage of John’s Gospel, a much needed humility is worked out by focusing on Jesus – the LIGHT to which JB and John the Witness were sent to testify! We are not the light, but we do indeed point to the light that enlightens our lives and hearts
What are you hoping for today? I think John is just asking us to have an open heart. Later in this Gospel, Jesus says more about who He is, but right now at the beginning before we meet Him, John simply introduces Jesus as the LIGHT, while saying he is only a witness – to testify to the light. Because in this busy wonderful season, it doesn’t really matter who has the biggest and brightest light display in the neighborhood. We, like John must be clear about who we are – people called to testify to the love of Christ.

Because as Bob Dylan said, “You say you’re lookin for someone:
Never weak but always strong,
To protect you an' defend you
Whether you are right or wrong,
Someone to open each and every door,
Someone who will die for you an' more,
But it ain’t me, babe.

And during this season, it is about the one who is. Let’s take the focus off ourselves and turn attention toward the one who saves us from ourselves.


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