John 1:6-9 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Today we hear these ancient words of John. Both the gospel of John and John the Baptist--two separate people although easy to get confused. John the Baptist, although never labeled as such in the gospel of John, is our signpost at the beginning of the journey of Advent. He points and we look.
It reminds me of something my dad would do when we were kids. All four of us would be at the kitchen table and my dad would suddenly just look up at the ceiling. Of course, we all would then look up. And then my dad would be laughing, because there wasn’t anything up there, he was just tricking his gullible children.
Well, John the Baptist points toward something much more meaningful than a spot of nothing on the ceiling. But like my siblings and me, it’s hard to not follow John’s gaze.
We learn in the gospel of John that the baptizer John was there to witness and testify. If these words sound legal to you, it’s because they are. John was building a case. John was there to witness to the truth and light of the person of Jesus Christ. This is in direct opposition to those who set out to build a case against Jesus.
It is in the gospel of John that we hear the most about the plot to kill Jesus. We hear about the smear campaign that placed Jesus in front of Pilate, the political maneuvering that sentenced him to death, even though as Pilate said, there was no case against him. Jesus was framed.
And so, even here at the beginning, we hear the testimony of John the Baptist. The one who went ahead of Jesus, proclaiming his light. John says look, the truth will be illuminated here, in this story we tell about Jesus. You will see how he was light and life. It’s not what those people said. Let me tell you the truth.
The light that John brought wasn’t the cozy blur of Christmas tree lights. This is the bright light of investigative truth. John the Baptist is a spotlight, turned toward the injustice of the world.
He is a witness.
I am here today to make a case to you that Advent is not just a cozy season of hot chocolate and Christmas lights. Advent is a season of testimony where we are called to rise up and testify against all that is untrue and hidden in the secrecy of night.
Maybe you see where I’m going with this.
Because I could help but read this witness of John separate from the news. You know the news, begun perhaps by all of the women standing up and speaking their truth through a simple two word phrase--me too.
This has led to a dramatic cascade of truth telling, casting light on shameful patterns and habits of men abusing their power against women.
I won’t recap the news any further for you, as I trust you have heard plenty about the names of those who have fallen from grace.
But I do want to linger a moment longer on how I view the acts of these women who are standing up and revealing truth as acts of Advent witness.
Think of how long it took for some of these women to get to a point where they believed they would be heard. Think of the case they have to make, that each detail, each piece of evidence must be in place or else their truth would not be believed.
Yet what we’re seeing is that truth telling brings more truth telling. The powerful are not protected by their wealth and position.
What could be more faithful to the message of John the Baptist and Jesus? Both of these men came to speak about injustice in the world. They talked about how the world would be turned upside down, how the mighty would fall. They spoke about the corruption of the leaders of the day.
This Advent, don’t shy away from testimonies of truth.
Each week this Advent we will be looking at scriptures and studying around the theme and focus, “Leave the Light On.” You’re going to hear a lot about light the next few weeks. And as we journey toward the manger, we will get cozy, hushed, and reverent as we move closer to the sleeping baby Jesus.
But this is not without remembering the bright light that John the Baptist gave witness to. Testify to the light that causes the mighty to fall and the world to enter a new day of truth and justice.