Sermon for Advent 3 ~
December 14, 2014
Have you ever
been birdwatching? The leader takes the group out to where the birds are.
Then there is a slow and quiet walk in the woods. At a certain point he motions
us to stop. We all hear something. He looks through his spotting scope and
then stands and points. “There it is!” he says. Twenty pair of
binoculars turn in that direction. “Where? Where?” people mutter to one
another. “There! Don’t you see it?” someone says. “The 3rd
tree, 4th branch!” Finally, there is a low murmur through the
group as one person steers the view of another. “Oh, THERE! Now I see!”
I was in a
group like that one time and eventually did see what everyone else was looking
at. My problem was that I was looking for something colorful and flashy, but it
was only a little bird singing with a heart bigger than itself.
We are with
John the Baptist again this week. He hears the song of the Lord and wants to
show us who it is…
As we heard
last week, a lot of people were coming out in response to John. They were
looking for something. I wonder what it was. People are like that today.
Looking, wondering, debating, arguing, reading books, taking retreats,
spiritual direction, meditation – all in search of something – like the crowds
coming to John.
the extremes of this. Recently there was a story in the news about a young man
from Ottawa who was urging terror attacks on Canadian targets. He had become convinced
from online information that our society is corrupt and we are all wrong. He
was looking for something in his life and became “radicalized” by the witness
of others. As this shows, it is possible to sell ourselves out to someone
else. No wonder we are skeptical about what people say.
The people in
John’s day heard many voices: the voices of animals at sacrifice, of priests
and teachers instructing, the harsh voice of Roman soldiers, the hushed voice
of rebellion, and the voice of their children wanting to be held.
today’s voices too. People on TV and the internet tell you what to do and why
it’s the best way to believe, to diet, to exercise, to invest, to travel and
find relationships. In most cases they profit in the end.
authorities considered John another self-aggrandizing pretender. They thought
he was touting himself as the messiah, as Elijah or a prophet who was trying to
gather a following for his own reasons. He said, “Nope.”
As John cries
out across the valley, the world and the centuries, his is not a voice trying
to manipulate or indoctrinate. He is not condemning or radicalizing here.
What John tells us we need is Redirection.
to light. That helps when you are in the dark, lost, sidetracked or if you
have hit the ditch on winding and slippery roads. He never said, “Follow me.”
He directed attention away from himself. It was like he was saying, “Forget
me. I`m like a traffic signal: stop, watch out, go. I’m nothing. The one
coming… he’s everything.”
I think he
astonished his critics by telling them, “Among you stands one whom you do
not know.” Do we know that? The coming one is already among us!
That is what John’s Voice was about: the message, the Word that comes today is
that the Lord is already with us – Emmanuel.
you stands one whom you do not know…
this Gospel tells us that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of
grace and truth. It’s another version of the Christmas story: God, always
present, takes shape right here among us. In John’s day it was the person of
Jesus. And that body of Christ – where is it today? Look around my friends:
God takes shape here. The Spirit is present here in much the same way as in
Jesus who stepped forward up to John.
God is easy
to miss if we are looking for some fantastic spectacle, or some throbbing inner
vibration. God is easy to miss if we dismiss everything small and ordinary.
Like that little bird in the tree … God is present, but I often don’t even know
God takes shape among us in mercy for the rejected, time for the abandoned, and
gentleness for the weak. God takes shape among us in opposition to the
violent, the pompous and conniving. God takes shape among us as a child in a
manger, as a host at table with friends, with so much forgiveness spilling out
of him that it covers even those who hang him up on a cross.
John is pointing us to. That’s why his faith is important to him. It brings
light to his dark world. In a conversation with a man at A&W this week, he
told me, “This world is sure broken.” Exactly. John is a witness to
light and to courage in a broken world.
Why is your
faith important to you? Why do you keep gathering here near the water? Why do
you keep coming to this little table? Let’s take a minute of witness. You
don’t have to try and explain what you believe – we are all at different points
on that journey… Just tell someone near you WHY… Why your faith is important,
why you are here again today. Be a Voice.
exchange with each other)
is important to me because it tells me that Jesus will never forsake us, come
that he was a VOICE. We are voices too. Voices that testify to light, voices of
redirection that help us see that God is present right here among us…
little bird in a tree with a song of wonder and beauty for everyone.