Showing the Light of the World

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Isaiah 61:1-4 & 8-11  John 1:6-8 & 19-28
10.30 SMAS Service
(11.12.2011)

Who’s ready for Christmas? Who is impatient? It’s a time of waiting and preparing isn’t it? Perhaps there are odd bulky looking bags on top of wardrobes – you know they contain something good and you can’t wait for Xmas to come so you can see what’s in them. It’s a bit like that in our reading today too.

The people of Israel knew that good was coming, they’d been told about it by prophets. Someone special was coming who was to bring good news to people who were having a tough time, people who were imprisoned, oppressed and broken-hearted.

They knew the time was soon just like we know Christmas is soon. But although Christmas will be here soon there are still lots of things to do to prepare for it. Perhaps there are lists of things to be done before Christmas comes dotted around your house? Perhaps you still have presents to buy? To wrap? Cards to write? Cakes to ice and mince-pies to make? Maybe there’s some extra cleaning to do, especially if you have visitors coming?

And it was the same in our Bible reading. The people of Israel were getting excited and looking towards the time when this special person, their King would arrive to rescue them. But then another special person came along first, John the Baptist and told them there was lots to do in order to get ready for the coming of Christ.

John the Baptist was special in that he was a little odd to say the least. He looked odd to start with. He was rather hairy, he wore very rough clothes and he ate locusts. People flocked to see him though because he would shout out wild things about telling people to prepare, To make their paths straight, meaning to put their lives right, repent and be baptized. And those who wanted to repent, to say sorry for their sins he baptized with water to represent them being washed clean of their sins – as we will do with Zoe later.

So this is all very like our getting ready for Christmas. We want all of the lovely things it brings but we have to get ready first. For that first coming of Christ it was the same. Everyone wanted the benefits, the lovely things about Jesus but there were things to do in preparation.

Everyone wondered if this John the Baptist was the coming Messiah, Christ. But he said no, he was not. But he said that the one was coming, he called the one coming the ‘light’. And later Jesus was also to tell people that He was the LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Holman Hunt’s picture called the light of the world shows Christ knocking on a door that has no handle on the outside and is covered in ivy and weeds. It symbolises that Jesus wants to come into our sin covered lives, our hearts, but all He can do is knock, He doesn’t force himself into our lives, He’s there and He’s knocking on the door. Are we ready for Him? Do we want to ask Him in and be born in our hearts this Christmas? Perhaps a more important question is do we recognize He is even there? The thing was that when Christ came people didn’t recognize Him. But John had given them a lot of clues in what he said and did.

He said his role was to make straight the way for the Lord. He taught people how to behave, how to sort out their lives and straighten up their crooked ways. This was to make, A reformed people. People who have turned round from bad things and gone in the opposite direction from where they were heading.

John’s role was to baptise people as a symbol of clean lives, the washing away of sin, and of becoming members of a new Israel. Just as God’s first people (Israel) had passed through the waters of the Red Sea, this symbolic action of baptism in the Jordan implies that God’s new people (a new Israel) pass through water again. As today’s baptism symbolizes becoming part of the church. A baptised people.

John makes clear his own humility, saying that he is not worthy to untie the thongs of Jesus’ sandals. This would have been a slave’s task. John does not consider himself worthy even for this.  A humble people.

With the arrival of Jesus it’s clear who John had been pointing to. Jesus teaches that people need to be reformed. The Sermon on Mount talks of a radical reformation, not just actions, thoughts are to be examined.

Jesus teaches the importance of baptism. There’s no evidence Jesus actually baptised anyone.  But Baptism is an act of cleansing and membership.
Jesus was God and His birth and coming in human form are signs of his humility, also his washing of disciples’ feet.

John was the signpost pointing to Jesus. He is the royal herald preparing the way for his King. He is the messenger and Jesus is the message. He talks of Christ: Jesus is the Christ. He tells them to prepare for His arrival in their and our lives. Thing is we don’t always recognize Him do we?

Show ‘Stethoscope’ Youtube video.

Christ is there, knocking on the door of our heart. Do we recognize Him? Do we ask in Him that we might in turn, like John the Baptist be a people who show Him to the world? At the very end of this baptism service I will give Michelle and Elliott a candle for Zoe. It represents Christ the light of the world and is meant to symbolize that we are meant to go out into the world and show that light of Christ to all who see us.