Witness to the Light

Sermon preached at Merredin Uniting Church on 13th December 2020. 3rd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-7

John 1:6-13, 19-28

Charlie Brown finds Linus walking in the night with a candle, “What’s this?” he asks.

Linus responds, “I have heard it said that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”.

Charlie Brown – “That’s true, but there will always be those who disagree with you.” 

And then we see Lucy shouting out, “YOU STUPID DARKNESS!”

How many of us enjoy cursing the darkness?

How many of us would rather complain about what is wrong than to add to what is right?

With COVID, its been a tough year in many ways … it has seemed easier to curse the darkness.

‑ To feel sad or upset, or angry, about what is going on,

‑ To cast stones and criticize the way the epidemic has been handled.

But today I want to talk about lighting that candle.

John the Baptist said that he came to testify to the light, … so that through the light all men might believe. He said plainly that he was not the light but he was a witness to the light. This is a very interesting distinction … he was not, and could not, be the light but he could point people to the light. He understood this clearly in his ministry.

He did what was needed to be done … he stood up front … he baptised … he challenged the King ……but, when the Light came he stood back.

“I am not the Christ.”

“I am not Elijah.”

“I am not the Prophet.”

WHO ARE YOU THEN ?

“I am simply a voice in the desert.”

Simply a voice in the desert … simply a voice in the dark … in the dry dusty lives that people live – I am the witness to the light. You will not see better because of me, but I can point you to One who will let you see clearly.

A voice in the desert … a candle in the dark.

Our task in the dark is to point people to Jesus. Our own example will always be flawed … it will never fully dispel the dark. It is not the true light of the world.

BUT

in our life, our actions, our attitudes we can point people to Jesus : the true light who has come into the world.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He claimed for Himself the prophecy of Isaiah 61. 

To preach good news to the poor

to bind up the broken hearted

to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.

He does that … not us …

But the consequence of what Jesus has done in our lives is a profound witness to His light. Jesus has radically changed us. He has dealt with our poverty, our brokenness, our captivity, our darkness. And this is our witness!!

He gives a crown of beauty for the ashes of our poverty

He gives the oil of gladness to heal our mourning

He gives the garment of praise for our spirit of heaviness.

We are called to be the display of His splendour.

That doesn’t mean that I never feel sad or upset. It doesn’t mean that I will never get angry. If I never did, I wouldn’t need the crown of beauty, the oil of gladness or the garment of praise. I wouldn’t need Jesus.

I MUST stand like John the Baptist and cry out : “I am not the Christ.” 

“I am not Elijah.” 

“I am not the Prophet.” 

And I must, in my heart, say …

“I am still in the desert, but I can be a voice. I can be a witness to the light”.

I must declare the “year of the Lord’s favour.” The Year of Jubilee. 

In Biblical tradition, the Jubilee Year is the year in which the past is wiped out. Debts are forgiven, all property is returned to its original owner. The slate is wiped clean. It is an opportunity to start again from scratch … not with nothing, but with all the good things you had at first. 

Only Jesus offers that .. and Christian after Christian can testify to it.

But if you try to tell people that they can start again without pointing them to Jesus, without witnessing to the light … they always just want to go back to the last good time they had, never to a most amazing new beginning … To a point where all their present problems have absolutely no history or relevancy. 

The gambler only wants to go back to the point where his paypacket is still intact. The alcoholic only wants to go back to the point where he is sober.

The mourner only wants to go back to the point where their loved one is still alive.

Why?

Because that’s all the world offers … an opportunity to do it all again; one more wager on a horse, one more drink, one more day of life.

Does that help? No, of course it doesn’t.

But Jesus offers much more. An opportunity to begin “life” again. No more condemnation, no more fear. And we need to be pointing people to that.

A rebirth … a new-born baby. No shackles, no encumbrances. A new beginning. A fresh start.

Yes, we will still face poverty, but we have good news.

We will still be broken hearted, but Jesus will bind us up.

We will still be captives in this dark world, but Jesus has proclaimed freedom and released us from its clutches.

The Christian life is one of freedom!

But so often we bind ourselves, or let satan bind us in the constraints of a limited, worldly concept of the law. 

We are called to be witnesses to the light, not to constrain the darkness. 

Darkness always, always flees before the light … not the other way round.

Do you want to know how to be a witness to the light?

It’s so easy … so simple … so subtle in its approach … so profound in its proclamation of Jesus

Listen …

Respect those who work hard among you …

Live in peace with one another …

Encourage the timid …

Help the weak ….

Be patient with everyone …

Always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else …

Be joyful always …

Pray continually….

Give thanks in all circumstances …..

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire that was born in you when you came to Jesus.

It is the fire of the Holy Spirit in us that points others to Jesus. 

Tell me how the angry man will resist when you live in peace ..

How will the timid fall when you encourage him …

How will the weak fail when you help him …

How can the bitter man resist Christ’s joy in you …

How can the stubborn man resist God’s answers to your prayers ?

Celebrate Jubilee.

Celebrate Jesus.

Be a witness to the light.

God bless you as you prepare to share the wonder of Christ with us, in your family and in this community this year.



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