The reason for the season – John 1:6-8,19-28
A young politician who thought he was of some political standing was one trying to badger his way into getting a free upgrade at the check in counter at the airport. When at first, he did not succeed he raised his voice over the din and said to the lady over the counter, “do you know who I am?” Ignoring him she continued to go through the motions of the check in procedure. This seemed to have got the goat of the wannabe politician who thumped his hand on the desk asking again, “do you know who I am?” The young lady calmy left her place behind the counter and walked to a public address system. Then in a crisp cool voice she said, “ladies and gentleman, there is a man at my counter who has been asking me if I know who he is, evidently, he has lost his memory, if any one can recognize him could you please assist us and this gentleman at counter 23.”
There is a growing clamour for public acknowledgment of who we are in the eyes of others. Titles and position seem to matter. Social recognition among peers seems to define who we are rather than the qualities of our heart. The Gospel of today focuses on John the Baptist who seems quite oblivious of the rat race for titles among the Jewish establishment. While their phylacteries grew longer and defined who they were in Jewish society, John the Baptist seemed rather content with a camel hair wrap around and a diet of locust and honey. His mission was operated from a non-descript place in Bethany across the Jordan and he needed just his conscience and water to bring hope and healing to the masses.
In the Synoptic Gospels, John the Baptist is a prophet who has an important ministry in his own right. He calls people to repentance and eventually dies as a martyr for daring to confront petty earthly tyrants with the word of the Lord. But in the Gospel of John, for the most part, john the Baptist just points people to Jesus. Even more while Jesus will proclaim seven times in this Gospel the words, “I am”, John the Baptist seems to proclaim, “I am not.”. He is not the Messiah; he is not Elijah and he is not even a prophet.”
So, what is John? He is a voice and witness for the faith; that’s it! These qualities or attributes are in tension with the spirit of our age. Most people today regard religion as a private matter and do not want to hear about someone else’s particular beliefs. As a witness he is willing to testify to the truth. You may have been a witness to an incident but that does not make you a witness unless you are willing to testify to what you truly saw.
The term “witness” or some form of it appears over fifty times in this Gospel. In Greek this word reads as martyres. The truth was an essential part of any testimony. Perjury was a serious business and a dishonest testimony could cause you the ultimate consequence of death when a testimony was deemed false. When priests and Levites were sent to John the Baptist to enquire who he was, he stepped right into the witness box and states who he is not but testifies to what his role is. In sort, if John had a Facebook page it would have an image of himself pointing to Jesus. That is why in the Gospel of John, John is never called the Baptist, rather, he is John the Witness.
But John is also the voice crying out in the wilderness. In short, he is calling out to any one and everyone, proclaiming the message of Jesus and the message is not about him. He is not the focus but Christ is. Perhaps there is a lesson to learn here. Christmas is not about you and me it’s about the message of Christ, born to save us from our sins. It does not matter what we receive this Christmas or how we celebrate it, what matters is do we proclaim the reason for the season? We must be audacious enough to believe that the Gospel is true and if it is for us then we must proclaim it boldly, publicly and confidently.
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