There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. (John 1:6)
John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Light of God. And who is this light of God? John’s mission was to point people to that special light. John knew it was not about him. He was just a messenger, doing what he was called to do, to point others to Jesus. John was a type of the church to come. Our mission is to point others to Jesus. Everything we do as a church points others to God. The candles, the altar, the cross, the sermon, the way you live your life. We are all called to be pointers to point others to the light. You, me, and all of us together can say along with the prophet John: The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted,to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners;(Isaiah 61:1-4)
Looking toward the light reminds me of the words of St. Paul: Now we look through a glass darkly but then we shall see him face to face. We are doing a study on Wednesday evenings during Advent with a book by Eugene Peterson called: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction., Discipleship in an Instant Society. Another word for discipleship is transformation, allowing yourself to be changed from the inside out. Another word for transformation used by Paul in Thessalonians is sanctification or sanctify.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil… (1 Thessalonians 5:16-17)
I love this passage, because it is also a pointer. It points us to the light. We are encouraged to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing. Obviously, the writer is talking about a lifestyle or an attitude of prayer, and to give thanks in all circumstance for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Another thing that is not always easy to do, but it is something we can work towards; a long obedience in the same direction.
And, we are encouraged to allow the Spirit to have access in our lives and in our faith communities. We are told not to quench the Spirit. And not to despise the words of the prophets, and in this case the prophet John and the prophet Isaiah who is pointing us to the Light with these words:
The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit (Isaiah 61)
And, here is Paul’s words about sanctification or transformation, a change that happens from the inside out:May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this (I Thessalonians 5: 18-24)
The Psalm for this morning is often associated with evangelism because of the last verse. Listen to it closely. Just as the prophet and others point us to the light, we are also called to point others to that same light. And, it’s not always an easy path to take. God did not promise us a bed of roses. Roses are pretty but they have thorns. When we do our work as God has called us to do, to go forth with weeping and tears, we shall come again bringing our sheaves with us. In other words, we will be successful in bringing others to the Light of Christ, welcoming them into our community of faith.
When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalm 126, KJV)