3rd Sunday in Advent – B LSB #’s 811, 357:1 & 4-7, 349
Text – John 1:6-8
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the Light, that all might believe through Him. He was not the Light; but came to bear witness about the Light.
A WITNESS TO THE LIGHT
Paul Tournier was a famous psychiatrist & Christian author of many insightful books. After he’d written his first, he returned to graduate school to visit his favorite professor. Granted an afternoon of the venerable old man’s time, Tournier read his new book to his former teacher.
As he completed his reading, he looked up to find tears in the man’s eyes. Said the professor, “Paul, that is a wonderful book. Everyone of us Christians should read it.” Tournier was surprised, “I didn’t know you were a Christian? When did you become one?” His professor replied, “Just now, as you read your book.”
Paul Tournier was a witness to the light, but most Christians are like rockets that sit, ready to be orbited yet never launched from the pad. We are often like Christmas trees that are not sold. We’re like paintings never hung, like bridges never crossed.
We spend a lifetime seeming to study God’s Word, listening to His commands, fellowshipping in His church; but seldom doing what God has called us to do; witnessing to the Light. John the Baptist was different. He heard God’s call, & he responded. Are you a witness to the Light? Are your thoughts, words & deeds a witness to the light?
When God has blessed you with healing, have you rejoiced at the opportunity to share that news with others? Or have you attributed your healing to being lucky? When you met the love of your life, did you want a church wedding to testify to God’s blessings? Or were you married in a church because that’s just the way it was done?
As Christians, God gives us countless opportunities to be witnesses to the Light. Have
they become bridges that you never crossed? John the Baptist crossed the River Jordan & lived in the wilderness. He totally devoted his life to being a witness to the Light. Literally, he devoted his life. King Herod had John’s head removed for it.
Our English word martyr comes from the Greek word marturi, a which means witness. Therefore a martyr is basically the ultimate witness; one who would give his very life as a statement of his beliefs. Being a martyr isn’t something that many of us aspire to is it?
It’s difficult enough giving up other activities on Sunday morning for our faith, let alone giving up our life. All the members of this congregation struggle with that problem, even before the virus hit & gave people some legitimate cover for not being here.
John the Baptist must have known or believed something that most people today do not. John gave up his life. What have you given up? Anything? We don’t even aspire to being living witnesses, let alone martyred ones. Look at your lives, how filled are they with witnessing to the Light?
Christ is God’s solution to all problems; the source of all peace, comfort & rest. Yet, each of us experiences emotional or physical pains that burden our days & paralyze our will. Prolonged problems, family fights, marriage mistakes, all types of human hurts, gnaw away our soul. Where is this peace, comfort & rest that the Light claims to bring?
Our burdens drag us down, & have been our constant companion for what can seem like forever. The devil attacks precisely where we feel most raw. He would have us believe that we simply have to live with our pain. There is no hope. There’s nothing we can do to remove those fears or problems from our lives. Don’t even bother seeking out God. What’s the use?
This talk about Jesus being the answer to all problems seems like nothing more than that. Talk! Talk is cheap. Aren’t you tired of it? Don’t you want something more concrete than that, like the power to change things; power to make things the way they should be? Jesus is the Light, born in a manger to suffer in our place. Yeah, that is such a cute story. How nice!
It sounds like pie in the sky doesn’t it? I know it does, because I’m aware of your lack of activity here. You must be looking for peace & rest somewhere else, because I don’t see you looking for it in God’s house. Are you sure you believe Jesus is the answer? Your lives don’t show it! Could it be you don’t really believe Jesus is what He says?
Many of you are familiar with hard work. Isn’t that because you believe in it? Many of you spend a lot of time relaxing. Isn’t that because you believe in it? Some of you spend a lot of time on sports activities. Isn’t that because you believe in them?
How much time do you spend on your relationship with your Creator? Should that not be a focal point in your life, if you really believe in Him? PAUSE
Maybe that is where your problems begin. Maybe you don’t believe, or at best you believe in a wimpy god who is not able to handle your problems & your needs. You don’t believe in an almighty God that can do all things.
Or, maybe you’re too impatient to wait on Him. Again, lack of belief in the Light causes you to go off on your own, doing it your way & in your time. PAUSE
Skeptics in every age have rejected God’s handiwork. 2000 years ago they would have laughed at Mary’s vision, Joseph’s dream & the Magi’s star. If they had looked into the manger, they would’ve seen only a human child. Today, those same doubters say God’s Word is archaic, His Sacraments are powerless, & the message of the manger, the cross & the empty tomb are but myth – nothing more than ‘touching’ little stories to tell.
Those who see with eyes of faith know better. They know the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men; & the weakness of God is stronger than men, even skeptical men. Like the shepherds, God’s true children worship that helpless looking – pie in the sky – Baby. Like the Wise Men they gladly present their gifts to the Light who is born King of the Jews, & Savior of our souls.
Those who see with eyes of faith follow the advice of the book of Hebrews as they throw off everything that hinders & the sin that so easily entangles, & then, they run with perseverance the race marked out for them. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith.
God knows what’s holding you back. He knows what you are afraid to face, or what you are unwilling to give up. Christ knows the weaknesses you struggle with, because He also was tempted, hated, rejected, tortured, condemned & ruthlessly murdered.
Being God, He would not have died for some pie in the sky theory. And how could that “scam” have lasted 2000 years without being changed, if there were no truth in it?
If you get the opportunity to be at the bedside of a strong & faithful Christian as they die, you will see that their faith is not in vain. As you experience the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding, you’ll want to witness to that Light – the Light that gives peace even in the face of death – the Light that has lifted your burdens & removed your grief, in spite of hopeless or dismal circumstances.
Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, & it was He that Simeon sang of in the song the church calls the Nunc Dimittis. That’s Latin, for Now Dismiss us. We sing it when the Lord’s Supper concludes: “For my eyes have seen Your salvation; which You have prepared before the face of all people, a Light to lighten the Gentiles.”
John the Baptist & Simeon were witnesses to that Light, & then they died. But John & Simeon, through their witness & deaths, only prepared the way for the true Light of the world. They only pointed to that Light. Jesus was & is that Light. He has completed & fulfilled their witness, as He Himself was the ultimate witness & martyr. John & Simeon pointed to Jesus as the Savior. Jesus died as the Savior. In fact, His very death IS our salvation.
There may be nothing we can do to remove our own fears & troubles. But God’s Son has already done what is necessary. With His death He removed our reason to fear. Jesus bore our troubles for us on the cross, & He removed the sting of death with His resurrection. Eternal life is yours as a gift. You can’t pay for it with any amount of work or suffering.
That news is called the Gospel, & according to Scripture it is the very power of God unto salvation. If you really want the power to change the world, it’s right there, waiting for you to share it, to be a witness to it. That message has the power to change the course of eternity for whomever you share it with. PAUSE
John was martyred for his witness, & his witness testified to the One who would be martyred in our place. Have you been preparing for that One’s return? Have you helped anyone else prepare by witnessing to them? Advent is a reminder that you & I should be about preparation – preparation not only for Christ’s 2nd coming, but preparation for the message of His 1st coming as well: “For unto you is born, this day in the city of David, a Savior.” PAUSE
Photography used to be a hobby of mine. I got a real sense of satisfaction in finding a beautiful scene, photographing it, & then having the opportunity to share that beauty with people who could not be there. The Bible is God’s photograph to us, showing you the beauty of the Light, the beauty of the news of our Savior’s birth, life, death & resurrection.
That news alone, has the power to prepare hearts for salvation, even the cold, dead & indifferent hearts that we often reveal by our failure to seek out our Creator or to be lights in the darkness of a sinful world. Thank you Lord, for Your witness & Your light in the darkness of my own heart. Maybe you don’t believe, or at best you believe in a wimpy god who isn’t able to handle your problems & your needs. You don’t believe in an almighty God that can do all things. Or you’re too impatient to wait on Him. Again, lack of belief in the Light causes you to go off on your own, doing it your way, & in your time.
Jesus has paid for those sins. Do not allow His payment to go to waste. Put it to use. Cling to it. Turn back to Him in repentance & allow the Holy Spirit to make you pure again, & again, & again. Seek out Jesus, not in the Christmas aisles at Menards or Kohls. Seek Him out here in His house built so that you can meet Him here & receive the blessings He offers.
Those blessings do not need batteries & there is no assembly required. The blessings of God do not need WiFi or 5G. His blessings come in Word & water, in bread & wine. His blessings come to broken hearts that they might know peace & joy. Look at your lives, how filled are they with witnessing to the Light? They aren’t filled with it are they?
So Jesus came to fill His life with witnessing to the Light of heaven & He did that because He knew you would not. He came to ransom you & me because He knew we were captive to the sin of failing to be witnesses to the light. He did that so that you could claim His witness as your own & thus receive the welcome to heaven of the Father in heaven.
May the words of today’s closing hymn be on your lips throughout this coming week. Amen.
Hark the glad sound! The Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let every heart prepare a throne & every voice a song. He comes the broken heart to bind, the bleeding soul to cure, & with the treasures of His grace to enrich the humble poor. Amen. LSB 349:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet