For the 3rd Sunday of Advent, we are invited to read Isaiah 61:1-4 & 8-11 and John 1:6-9 & 19-28.
Life for the people of John’s time was difficult. They were an oppressed people, their land occupied by the Romans. Injustice and exploitation were part of life. They longed for the time when things would get better.
The prophets had long foretold that God would send a Deliverer, a “Messiah”; and for some, they thought that this was John. But he would have none of it. “I am not the Christ”, he said.
Neither was he Elijah nor any other Prophet whose return was anticipated to herald the Messiah’s coming.
For us, while our circumstances may be different from those of the people in John’s time, life for many today is also difficult. Lives can be burdened by worries, family concerns, job uncertainties, financial difficulties, health issues, or even bereavement.
So, while many look forward to this time of year, there are also some for whom feelings of celebration are not uppermost in their minds.
But now, as Christmas approaches, it is good to read the words of Isaiah (61:1-4). In them, we can see that they come alive in Jesus’ ministry.
“The Lord has anointed me 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 prisoner….to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve”.
The very agenda of Jesus. These are words which remind us that it is Christ who has come to set us free; to heal us and help us, to lift us up, to carry us and to bring us - in the words of the Christmas Carol - ‘comfort and joy’.
This message from Isaiah, however, is not only about God’s incredible and deep longing to heal the broken and damaged human condition, to comfort and console, it is more.
These words also make challenging reading for us today. While we are blessed by receiving God’s reconciling love that comes with Jesus’ birth at Christmas, we are also called to share and show that love in our time and where we live.
God’s plan is that His Son, Jesus, is to redeem and restore the world. And it is John who is challenged to prepare the way, and to point the way to the light that was coming into the world.
At Christmas we see lights of all colours and sizes decorating Christmas trees, gardens and houses. Especially at this, the darkest time of the year, it brings a little brightness and can make us feel better; but we know it will not last. It is only temporary.
In a few weeks, the coloured lights and tinsel will all come down, and we are back into the depths of winter.
But the light John points to, is the light everlasting; the light that breaks through and dispels every darkness. It’s a light that gives purpose and meaning to life.
God, in Jesus, came as a light to the world. He came to everyone but especially those who are in greatest need; those who perhaps are really struggling right now and can see no light at the end of the tunnel.
The Christ that Isaiah prophesied, the Christ that John spoke about, comes to those who are hurting and gives hope.
He comes to those who feel they cannot go on and face another day and gives strength to continue. He comes to offer release, freedom to those who are trapped in the lives they lead.
He comes to those who wish a new life, a new start with God. That is the Good News of Advent.
John said, “I am not the Christ”. No, John was a messenger who helped prepare the way for Christ’s coming - and pointed the way for others to see.
And us? We too, are to be messengers. We are challenged to do as John did and to use every opportunity to point to the light that dispels every darkness – something so needed this Christmas in a year which has dimmed the lives of so many.
At this Advent time, may we be enabled to point the way to the light that comes to the world.
Let us pray.
Almighty God and Father in Heaven, as we continue our Advent journey, moving ever closer to Bethlehem, help us to focus on You and the coming of Your Son, Jesus.
You alone are our salvation. In You alone can we trust and not be afraid. It is, with anticipation, we look forward to celebrating Your coming to our world.
To a world of darkness, You brought light. To a lost world of hopelessness, You brought a living hope. To a world of sadness, You brought joy.
Lord Jesus, may we find the courage to point to the hope and comfort and peace You offer. May we witness to Your love and Your goodness, Your presence and Your compassion.
Amen, and may we people always ready to share the Good News of Christ’s coming.