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Friday, December 18, 2015

Today’s Reading | John 1:19–28  

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing. (NRSV)

Hallmark has created my new favorite birthday card. On the front, over a picture of a sunrise, it says, “Once Upon a Time a Very Special Person Was Born Destined to Change the World.” On the inside it reads, “Calm down. It’s not you. It’s Jesus. I think he’d want you to have a Happy Birthday, though.”

This echoes what the author of the Gospel of John wrote. The Fourth Evangelist lived in a time when there were persons who held to the teaching and baptism of John the Baptist instead of Jesus. Amidst this rivalry among believers, the gospel writer wanted to make it quite clear who the very special person born destined the change the world truly was. Into the mouth of John the Baptist he put, “Calm down. It’s not me. It’s Jesus.” John the Baptist answers questions about who he is by first emphatically stating who he is not. He is not the Messiah. He is not Elijah. He is not the prophet. He is merely a witness, lower than a slave, pointing to one far greater than he is. He defined his identity through his purpose as stated by the prophet Isaiah: “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’”

In this day of religious extremism we see the tragic consequences of erroneous beliefs and distorted ideologies. Be clear who you are and are not. Be careful whom you follow. Be humble in whom you declare was born to change the whole world. It is not you. It is not John the Baptist. It is Jesus Christ, whose love transforms all.

Gracious God, prepare me to receive Christ as the Messiah. Clear the path I take so it is him I truly follow. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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