By The Rev. Sherry Deets
3 Advent – December 11, 2011
John 1:6-8, 19-28
Today’s gospel reading is about the John the Baptist from the perspective of the Apostle John. Last week we heard the story from Mark’s perspective. If you will recall, Mark’s story was more concerned with the baptism of repentance, while John’s telling of it is more concerned with the testimony, or the witness, of John the Baptist. Rather than placing a focus on the character of the Baptist, the Gospel of John keeps the focus on the message, the message God has for the people, the message God has for Christians throughout the ages.
It’s much like the Buddhist monk who shared this wisdom:
“Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon’s location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger.”
The “finger” may be words, a religious icon, a beautiful sunset, a passage of Scripture, or another human being. But we must always “gaze beyond the finger” in order to see the moon. The “moon” in our case is the incarnation of God.
John the Baptist was not the light; rather he came to testify to it. The Baptist is the “finger” who points to the “moon;” he is not the moon itself. He is a channel for grace, the one who points us toward Jesus, the light of the world.
I am struck by the possibility that he tells the story of John the Baptist in a way that suggests you and I are now in the role of John the Baptist. We are the ones who now give testimony to the light of the world so that others might believe in him. We are the ones who are to prepare the way of the Lord. We are the ones who can look around and see that Christ is among us even though others may not recognize him in our midst .
John, the Evangelist, often reminds the readers of why he has written his Gospel. Throughout his narrative, the readers are reminded to point to Jesus as the Lamb of God and the Light of the World.
A most interesting story. A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule. A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk. A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work. The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried, but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on. In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one notice it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100. This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment, at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context? One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?
How many other things, indeed? Perhaps we miss the presence of Christ around us?
When we realize that John the Baptist is merely a witness to Christ, it becomes clear that his role is our role. We have a duty and an obligation to bear witness to the same Christ who lives among us.
If the story of Jesus is to be told this year, it is up to us. We are the new “voice[s] in the wilderness” who are preparing the way for Christ. How receptive our world is to that message depends in large part upon the way we open doors and hearts and minds.
For the good news is that Jesus was born. Christ is here now.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
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