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Sunday Message for 13 December 2020: “The Joy of Light”

Today’s message from John 1 emphasizes John the Baptist, a messenger who proclaimed Jesus as the true Messiah.

John the Baptist was Jesus’ second-cousin, a man whose appearance and habits cast him as an odd religious celebrity. The gospel stories present John as a pivotal figure, a prophetic voice preparing the way for Jesus. John’s message and methods were significant because the Bible suggests that he was a public sensation whose immersive, water baptism and call for repentance attracted people from all levels of Jewish society.

John the Baptist was tied to Jesus since before his birth. Jesus’ mother Mary had visited her first-cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. Elizabeth’s unborn baby John leaped inside her womb as if acknowledging Jesus’ importance. The two soon-to-be mothers shared special moments and Elizabeth elevated her cousin Mary and the unborn Jesus.

There is nothing in the Bible about where John and Jesus were educated. However, given that they were related it is likely that they were raised in close physical proximity and may have had similar religious training. Consider the treasure trove of ancient writings discovered in the 1940s near the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. These documents date back to Jesus time and they suggest that Jesus and John may have been influenced by a strict sect of Dead Sea Scroll authors known as the Essenes.

John testified about the light of God’s truth yet he also downplayed his role when he said, “I am not worthy to untie the thong of his [i.e., Jesus’] sandal” (John 1:27b). John may have shouted from the wilderness about the Messiah but who has proclaimed and prepared the way since then? It is easy to be confused by conflicted messages and hidden agendas.

Over the centuries countless writings and influences have attempted to explain God, Jesus, and all things spiritual and religious. People of faith in the here-and-now share a joyful responsibility to share God’s message as did John. Jesus walked the earth in a particular time and place, yet the Lord’s legacy remains active as you and other followers of God continue to share a joyful message.

John the Baptist’s elevation of Jesus set an example. Whether yesterday, today or tomorrow, the emphasis need not be on the messengers of God’s truth as much as it should be on the message, which for Christians focuses on receiving and sharing the most powerful force in the universe: love.

John’s interesting role alongside his cousin Jesus is a symbol of how we, too, can help prepare people to receive God’s message. As with John the Baptist, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with being a sensational personality yet the message must remain greater than the messenger.

In your corner of the world you too can announce divine love and truth. Demonstrate in your life how God’s wonderful joy energizes your faith journey. You needn’t be a prophet to speak of how God transforms you from the inside/out. My prayer is that the joyful light of spiritual life will shine through you during Advent and beyond.

  –Reverend Larry Hoxey

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