3rd Sunday in Advent
December 13, 2020
John 1:6-8, 19-28
“It’s Not About You”
Grace, mercy, and peace be yours in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The sermon today is based on the Gospel lesson read from John 1.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are considered a “Baby Boomer,” that is, a member of the generation born following the post World War II population explosion. After the “Boomers” came Generation Me or anyone born in the late 60s or 1970s. Anyone born between 1981 and 1996 is considered a Millennial, and anyone born from 1997 onward is part of a new generation known as Generation Z. These are people who are frequently and easily distracted, are constantly “updating,” desire instant access to everything, and have had it instilled in them that the self comes first. I have heard it suggested that they are also called the “iGeneration.” This generation has been profoundly shaped by technology and social media which demands too much of their time and effort to constantly update and maintain. The tragic side-effect is that people today tend to be self-centered and, as a result, they like to talk (or post) about themselves really regardless of what generation they are a member of. If you use social media a lot, there’s a good chance that you are your favorite subject. Just sayin’
We provide running commentary about our lives sharing pictures of what we eat, where we are, what we are doing, what we are feeling, what restaurants we eat at, our opinions on this or that, and on and on and on it gets posted. Our lives and our opinions are our favorite topics, and we are more than willing to share them with anyone with access to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and on and on it goes. “Me” is our favorite subject.
Nothing could be further from the purpose of John the Baptist. John the Baptist, however, wasn’t at all interested in talking about himself, and that strikes many as odd. The answers you can squeeze out of him seem to tell you mostly who he’s not. He’s not the Christ. He’s not Elijah. He’s not the promised prophet of Deuteronomy 18. In sheer exasperation the Jerusalem delegation demands: “Give us something to report to those who sent us. Who are you? What do you say about yourself?” That would be a great Facebook post, right?
“Me?” John seems to say. “I don’t have anything to say about myself, but Isaiah had a thing or two to say. He called me a voice out in the wilderness, crying, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.’ “A voice? A voice calling for folks to get ready for the coming of the Lord? Yep. That’s what the man said, all right. He was just a voice. Well, then, they wanted to know, “Tell us, voice, who gave you the authority to baptize, to promise the forgiveness of sins, if you’re not the Christ and not Elijah and not the prophet? By whose authority?” John didn’t brag about himself, though he could have – “from God” – but he was content simply to announce the coming Lamb of God [vv 24-28].
John’s answer at first doesn’t sound like an answer at all. He says, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” That’s John’s answer. The One among them, whom they don’t recognize, is the One who has authorized John to preach and invite people to repentance. John knows that what is really important; if he had a Facebook page, there would be no “selfies” of him in the Jordan River. John knew that it is not about him; it’s about the One who was before all ages. And look at what that One has come to do! John didn’t come among us to be served, not even to have sandals tied, but he came among us in order to serve us…the One who came to save us.
John was content to say virtually nothing about himself and even to be nothing except a voice announcing the coming of that One who serves us all by being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Being that voice defined John’s whole life. He didn’t want to talk about himself, because he was sent to talk about the greater One who comes to be our Savior.
2000 years later, nothing has changed in this regard. In the Church, the talk isn’t about us. It’s always all about another. Regardless of our generational affiliation – no matter how young or old we are – in the Church, the talk is always about the One whose sandals we are not worthy to untie. It’s about the One who’s infinitely greater than we, because he was before us all. He came among us as one of us precisely so that could serve all of us. He shouldered our sins as he carried his cross, and he died our death and shattered our hell, and by overcoming the sharpness of death he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Truly, the Son of Man did not come among us to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as the ransom for many, indeed, for all.
And so, how are we talking of Christ especially during this season and these troubling times? How are we being a voice crying into the wilderness world about Jesus Christ? At Good Shepherd, we do so in many ways through our worship, through stewardship and gifts, and through support of others who proclaim Jesus into this world. But is there more we could be doing? Absolutely. This is not the time to focus on self, but it remains crucial that we, as individuals and as a congregation, seek to proclaim Christ crucified and risen for our salvation in all we do and say in our community and in our world especially in troubling days such as these.
John teaches us that the joy of the Church, the joy of Christmas, and the joy of each of our lives, is found not in self — it’s not about us — but in the One who is among us, Immanuel. Only in Jesus is there forgiveness of sins. Only in Jesus is the remedy for those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death. Before we greet him in the manger, let’s again welcome him as he comes to us at his Table, bearing the only Christmas gifts that any of us need, gifts that none of us can truly live without.
My friends, it’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus Christ, our Lord…it always has been and always be.