What You Say about Yourself Affects How You Reflect the Light of Christ
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 14 Dec. 2014, Advent 3
Year B RCL: Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
News flash! It's Light of Christ Sunday – notice the pink candle lit in our Advent Wreath. How do your shine the Light of Christ? What do you say about Jesus? What do you say about yourself?
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." There is a man/a woman/a child sent from God, whose name is “Phil” – “Fill-in-the-Blank-with YOUR-Name. He/She/YOU have come to testify to the light...He/She/You are not the light, but you – we – are to testify to the light.
Light shines in darkness & in brightness. How do you shine your light? Shining the Light of Christ is like shining a flashlight1 for others to see in the dark. A flashlight is NOT the light. It shines the light. [May I have a young helper to demonstrate?]
What can block that light?.....[You must turn on the flashlight. You must shine it in a way that doesn't cover, hide or block the light. If we let something distract us, we may forget the flashlight & then others can't see the light. To keep a flashlight workable, we have to recharge the batteries.]
How do you shine the light of Christ that is within you? How do you renew your “batteries” so you shine brightly? One way is accepting the gifts & grace Jesus offers at this Holy Table. From here we can go out those red doors to shine the Light of Christ.
As important as what we say to testify to the light is how we say it.2 Notice how John testifies:3 I am not the Messiah, not Elijah, not the prophet. Notice his positive testimony about Jesus.4 Notice the leaders keep asking John about himself, yet he maintains his focus & turns them away from him to Jesus.5
What do you say about yourself to others? What do you say about yourself to yourself? How do you claim & embrace this truth: God loves you! No exceptions. God knows all about you. Live into that great love & love yourself – or learn to love yourself. No exceptions.
Like the man whose name was John, you & I are sent into the world as witnesses, as one Bible commentator notes6, & that makes many uncomfortable since much of the 21st century mindset sees religion as a private matter...7 That mindset shuns certainty: who can really know what's true?8
You & I are audacious: we believe the Gospel is true & that you & I must proclaim it boldly...9 How? 1: Be prepared. When you talk about Jesus, expect the kind of distraction John confronts: people will want to change the subject, often by asking us to talk about ourselves.10 Resist their leading questions. Focus on Jesus. Focus on the simple truth: God loves you! No exceptions. Jesus died for you. Jesus washed away all your sins. Jesus loves you. Jesus holds you close to his heart. LIVE in this great Love. Claim this truth: YOU ARE GOD'S BELOVED CHILD. God loves you! No Exceptions! Claim this so you can proclaim it. Proclaiming, witnessing to this love is like a dance. Let Jesus guide your steps.
Our scriptures today dance to the music of God. They dance the same steps with some variations, an added accent, a shift of tempo & rhythm. Isaiah & our Psalm set the basic movements: God acts, saves, restores; we respond & rejoice. Thessalonians emphasizes how we respond to live in holy community, trusting God acts now & will act in our lives. Our Gospel repeats the focus on God's action through humans, with John responding to God's call to testify to the Light. John the messenger announces good news: God will act through Jesus.
Like Isaiah & John, you & I are called by God to join this dance. To be messengers of the Good News that Jesus loves you. No exceptions. Jesus comes to liberate all of us from the oppression of sin & self-focus. Jesus welcomes all to come to him. Thanks be to God!
Dios Habla Hoy: La Biblia. 2da Ed. Nueva York: Sociedad Bíblica Americana. 1983.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
http://www.sermons4kids.com/reflecting_the_light.htm. Accessed: 12 Dec. 2014.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. http://www.lectionarypage.net/. Accessed: 8 Dec. 2014.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
Powell, Mark Allen. “Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.” Accessed: 12 Dec. 2014. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2267Voyle, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010.
Voyle, Robert J. “The Art of Resolving Resentment”. Forgiveness Forum: Teach Your Congrgation How to Forgive. www.appreciativeway.com. 2014.
1 Note: Idea from http://www.sermons4kids.com/reflecting_the_light.htm. Accessed: 12 Dec. 2014.
2 Powell, Mark Allen. “Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.” Accessed: 12 Dec. 2014. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=2267
3 The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1138.
4 Ibid. The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1138.
5 Ibid. Powell.
6 Ibid. Powell.
8 Ibid. Powell.
10 Ibid. Powell.