It was a dark and stormy night, and into the world comes the light, the light that will not, cannot, be put out. John’s gospel is all about this light. In Eugene Peterson’s translation of the Bible, The Message, it is the Life-Light that is the real thing. Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is God in the flesh. The light shines in the darkness. The Word becomes flesh. These are all ways the gospel writer John shows us who Jesus is, and what that means to us, the followers of Jesus. The gospel writer John, through the baptizer John, points us to Jesus, the light, God in the flesh.
John, the gospel writer, points us to Jesus, the light, God in the flesh, not as a nice idea, but as the real thing. John, the gospel writer, points us to John who is not a Baptist, but a witness, who gives testimony to the coming of the Word in the world. John is not I AM, and John points us to who is I AM.
We really live in Advent time most of the time. Advent is a time in between. It is liminal. It is waiting, and preparing, and anticipating. Most of our lives are spent waiting for the next thing, waiting in excitement or waiting in dread. Our son says that’s what the military is all about, hurry up and wait. We look back at our lives sometimes with regret for mistakes made and perfection not achieved. Often we look back with joy in memories of those we have loved and who have loved us. We look forward with longing to what we wish may be. And Advent calls us to presence. Advent calls us to live in this liminal time with purpose, with intention. In this Advent time, we wait, but in our waiting we don’t do nothing. Advent is being fully present to what it is God births in us. In Advent we pay attention to the now of not knowing, instead of the nostalgia of what was, and the wish of what may be. And at the very same time, we are enveloped by the stories that have informed us our whole lives, the stories that call us to justice, mercy, and love. The stories that teach us who we are.
Today we find ourselves at this third Sunday of Advent, with John who points us to Jesus, the Light of the world, God in the flesh, continuing in our wait, our preparation, our anticipation. What is it that John who does not baptize Jesus, point us to? What does John the gospel writer want to show us?
Behold, here is the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus makes the invitation to those following him, come and see. And right away, John points us to Jesus’ mother. In John, we meet her at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. We don’t meet her with the angel Gabriel announcing to her, her natal state. We don’t meet her with her sister Elizabeth, and we don’t meet her in the manger. There is no nativity in this gospel. We meet her with the words, “do whatever he tells you.” And the jugs of water become wine.
What John calls us to is to bear witness to the light that is Jesus, the lamb of God, Jesus the I AM, Jesus, the one who turns water into wine. We are to bear witness to the light that peeps through the cracks, the light that shines in dark places, the light that illumines those who are poor and those who are rich. John, the one who baptizes, bears witness to Jesus who is God in the flesh. We must bear witness also.
We understand what that means by reading Isaiah. God has sent us 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; to comfort all who mourn. We understand what that means by reading Thessalonians. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Today, in this in between time, the time between Jesus’ resurrection and coming again, the time between what was and will be, the time of presence and intention, how do we bear witness?
We bear witness by showing up with Jesus’ light in all sorts of places. We show up, we bring communion, we bear love and we bear witness to the peace, the justice that can be. In the midst of brokenness, in the midst of the disarray and disappointment, we carry the love that can pick up the pieces and put them back together again.
In the midst of mistreatment, we stand up and speak out for dignity. When words of hate and derision are slung like manure, we stand up and speak out for belovedness. When power oppresses, we share what power we have. I came across something this week that Toni Morrison, who is an author and teacher, said to her students, “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”
I think this is what bearing witness looks like. If you have been broken, and if we really tell the truth, all of us have been broken, your job is to help another pick up their pieces. If you have been mistreated, if you have been bullied, you empower those around you who have been mistreated. Sometimes that is the bully, Raanen Mogenson taught me that. Bearing witness is standing up and standing for dignity, the dignity that is in our very bones and sinews, the dignity of creation.
Bearing witness is seeing, hearing, smelling, the wonders of this amazing time of Advent. It is helping to name incarnation for those who are having a hard time seeing, or hearing, or smelling the wonders of new birth. In this darkest of time, in this time in between, where do you see new birth? And how are you bearers or midwifes, of that new birth? In this darkest of time, in this time in between, where do you bear witness to the freedom found in belovedness? In this darkest of time, in this time in between, how do you bear witness to the gift of grace and thanksgiving?
Be a Christ bearer, be a light bearer, be a love bearer. Thanks be to God.