Sermon john 1 6-8 19-28
What is a witness?
What should a witness do?
When do we get asked to be a witness?
I was in need of a witness once, I lived near a busy church and always went past it slowly on Sunday . Like St Catherine’s the car park was on the other side of the road. Once I stopped and a young lad on a motorbike swung past me impatiently hit a lamppost and fell off with the police who had arrived and they assumed I must have done something reckless to knock the bike over on an open road (I was young , it was a moped) . . I did drive too fast in those days , but on this occasion, I was stationery, but it took the vicar and a few parishioners come out and explain what he had seen to get me off the hook. So on that occasion I needed a reliable witness.
He was OK by the way.
In the bible witness is sometimes used a term for a thing that stands as a reminder of a covenant, a contract between us and God, like the tablet of the ten commandments for instance. In which we are asked not to bear false witness or join hands with malicious witnesses.
The most common usage both here and in the bible is
Someone who tries to tell the truth of what they see, what they know, what they have faith in, they are mediators of the truth. They bear witness to their truth, what they know to be true.
Here we have John the Baptist declaring he is a witness
What was he a witness too?
7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe
8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
So, john was a witness who came to testify to the light.
We in advent are waiting for the light of the world that overcomes darkness to enter into it
This light should light everything we do as the famous author C.S.Lewis said
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.
This shows what the truths and the light we are witness too in our lives and in scripture should do, illuminate it, and inform us. As our scripture said the “true light, which enlightens everyone”
So, what do we do with that story?
We could for instance look at this passage and think, well done John 😊 that’s wonderful.
It’s really easy to put bible stories in a little box, especially those we are familiar with and not look at what John the Baptist said and not relate it to our lives, however that would be a massive disservice to the bible itself and missing the point of a Christian life.
The story of the bible is of universal truths given to particular people, and these people must share these truths, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob , David, all the prophets, Jesus, the apostles, the disciples, and us.
We are his modern-day disciples, the latest in the long line and we have our duty as they had theirs.
We are the particular people with universal truths to share, even in our dark days, some might say especially because whats the light for?
The disciples of old had dark days, and we have seen ours in 2020
The thing is, in the dark days of 2020 we have all been able to be witnesses to the light, indeed we can bring a little light into the world.
We are inhabited by the spirit, therefore we ourselves carry the light, we are not the light, but we can share the light, be the witness. Just like john
When we state our faith to others it is said we bear witness, when we act in a way that brings others to faith or make people curious, we are more than witnesses we are participants. We are given the duty to share Christ by word and deed, to see Christ in all we meet. The child that we wait for in advent is what we share.
It is the greatest honour to know him, the greatest gift to share him. J.C.Ryle a great preacher of the 18th century describes what we share when we bear witness to our truth like john
Christ is to the souls of men what the sun is to the world. He is the centre and source of all spiritual light, warmth, life, health, growth, beauty, and fertility. Like the sun, He shines for the common benefit of all mankind – for high and for low, for rich and for poor, for Jew and for Greek. Like the sun, He is free to all. All may look at Him and drink health out of His light.
The child that comes very soon is light and salvation to the world, salvation translates to whole, being made whole. Being made who he planned us to be, not the diverted things we are in this life.
Not the compromises we are, not the precious things that God loves but that can never be all he wanted us to be, salvation brings his plan to fruition. Knowing the light opens the door to that salvation. That salvation does not reside in this building, nor with anyone in it, its strictly between you and God, made achievable by the gift grace. The thing that allows us compromised creatures to be something clothed in splendour and come before God made whole. But its up to us to let him in and our job to bring others to this light. To be witnesses like john.
That is what I try to do whenever I speak about him, its all I want to do with my life.
J.C ryle says it better than I can
Christian ministers are, not mediators between God and man. They are not agents into whose hand’s men may commit their souls and carry on their religion by deputy. They are witnesses. They are intended to bear testimony to God’s truth and especially to the great truth that Christ is the only Savior and light of the world.
Today john showed us he knew he was a witness, and he spoke about him.
The man that was predicted by the prophets, made possible by the deliberate action of God, the greatest gift we will ever be given will come into the world very soon.
Jesus Christ, the best news we will ever have even in the worst year for many a year.
This means our job as witnesses is more important than ever, more needed than ever, the world is more broken than its been, its in mourning for its dead, it’s mourning for family unseen that wont be together this Christmas, its searching for Good news.
We bear good news in a world looking for whats next, looking for the end of pain, looking for the end of loss.
Our lord eases the pain of all these things in this life and ends them totally in the next.
When we bear witness it may not be easy, we may get asked a few questions like John has been?
Who are you? John was asked to sort of explain by what power he was using to be his witness.
John was using the same power we have been given, the holy spirit, the thing that will put into your mouths the very word to say. Have faith 😊 I’ve seen it and experienced it, it feels like very thin ice at times, but that’s us not trusting him. Looking back, I was standing on a rock that goes back to the very beginning before the beginning was the word. My words were resting on the word, yours will be too. Trust me you’re not on ice at all, your foundations are the cornerstone, and you won’t be let down 😊
If you feel unlikely, your probably not less likely than a someone who has probably come down from desert mountains from a life of isolation, dressed in camel hair, and eating handfuls of honey and locusts 😊. I think we are a little less out there than that.
But more importantly
It’s our job, those that know him, those that carry him in us, to carry him openly this Christmas.
Tell them about the light that’s coming into the world, to expose the weakness of darkness, the temporary nature of it when exposed to light of Jesus Christ that puts it all into perspective. That makes this mess whole, in his time, in this life and the next.
Better still be the light, shine a little love into the darkness.
Be the reminder of the covenant between all humanity and our lord
Be a witness just like John, he was the first, now its our turn.
Intercessions for this sermon
Lord we thank you for this day
We thank you for our health and our families
We thank you for the chance to praise you again
We thank you for the chance to be your witness,
Lord as we wait for you help us wait with love and kindness.
And look after our families lord, look after them all for us.
Look after those we worry about, the sick and the young, our children who we never stop worrying about
Help all those that grieve in these dark days, grieve for loved ones, lost jobs, lives they wish they could go back too.
Bring them all back to you lord, and give them succour in the shelter of your love.
Make them whole
Bring them peace
Help us bring your light into all of the dark places lord, help us be your witness, help us participate in bringing your light to all.
Where there is rancour, help us bring harmony
Where there is anger help us bring peace.
Where there is ignorance, help us make space for the voice of wisdom
Help our leaders bring wisdom to all they do.
Help our leaders as the work through the final days before Brexit to come to the best decision for all.
Help our clergy bring your light and be your witness, help them shine your love into our community.
Lead them to where your light is needed the most.
Help us all to be the example of your love and bear witness to the changes you have made in us.
Help us all to make the changes we need to bring more to your church.
Help our church grow lord, help us plant the seeds of growth every day, and make space for growth.
Lord in a moment of silence we bring our private prayer to you.