Monday, December 18, 2017

Sermon Dec. 16-17, 2017 3rd Advent Service

Title: The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!
Text: John 1:6-8

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light …

The Definition of a witness:

A witness is someone who by explanation and demonstration gives audible and visible evidence of what he has seen, and heard … without being deterred by the consequences of his action. 

S. Briscoe, Getting Into God, p. 76.

Being a witness of the Love of God in your life can be difficult. It is hard to articulate, at times, what God has done for us – in Christ. Sharing your faith joyfully can be a challenge in the world and in the lives we lead.

I spent many years witnessing to a friend at work. It must have been 10 years before he came to me one morning with a smile on his face and said: “Russ … yesterday I got on my knees and asked Jesus to forgive my sins and I received him as my Lord and savior!” What a joy to hear and what a blessing it is to have an impact in the lives of friends, family, and loved ones.

My friend Mark is a gifted musician and composer as well as a skilled woodworker and before he made that revelation about his own faith in Jesus, he was putting on a concert of his music with a number of very skilled musicians and had a packed house at the Unitarian church in Birmingham where the concert was being held.

I had been witnessing to him at that time for a number of years and just before the concert he came up to me with a smile on his face and said, “I’m going to thank God … for my musical gifts and blessings in front of the crowd tonight!”

I knew it was a stretch for Mark to do this but:

I looked at him I said, “That’s nice Mark … but God has a name.”

For him, it was enough, he thought, to thank the generic God, but for those gathered who may trust in other gods, all gods, or no god, having a distinction is important.

At the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies 20 years ago Richie Furay a member of the hall inducted in as a member of the Buffalo Springfield and a pastor since 1974 thanked his wife of 30 years at the time, family, friends, and band members … but then said his thanks … “to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!” It was bold and there was no mistaking whom he worshiped.

A bit later in the program, Graham Nash who was also being inducted as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in mocking sarcasm, as only someone being led by a different spirit said:

“I also want to thank god … because I think she’s great!”

It is only that name of Jesus that we indeed find salvation, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

The witness of Christ thankfully is in you, so rejoice!

Last week we looked at John the Baptist, who was the messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus. Today, in the gospel reading, John is a witness to the priests and Levites sent from the Jews who asked him:

“Who are you?” The religious elite wanted to know who he was, why is he was baptizing, and if he’s is a prophet?

John confesses the truth that he is, “Not the Christ,” not Elijah, and not even a prophet but he does confess to who he is:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He is the one prophesied and spoken of in Isaiah, who would herald and proclaim the one who would follow him, but who would also be greater than he and whose sandals, John … was not even worthy to untie.

The Jews expected the Messiah of power and John tells the truth in his interrogation and nothing but the truth – so help me God - when he says that he is not the one they expect, but is the one who makes the way, making straight the way of the Lord.

He calls all to repentance, so that they might turn from their sin and place their trust in the one coming after him, who he calls the light of the world. That is who John bore witness to.

We all fall short and fail to bear witness to the light of the world that is Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior.


This past Sunday we had our Christmas program. The children bore witness in a real, though humorous, way to the truth of the biblical story. That this child born in a manger, is human and born of Mary, but also that this child is something more … that this child is “Christ the Lord” the savior of the world.

Bearing witness in the years to come, in the public square might become more difficult as the focus of religious freedom and those who oppose it will try to limit our freedom to speak the truth in love and may limit us to no farther than the door of the church you exit.

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us.


In The Mask Behind the Mask, [author and] biographer Peter Evans says that actor Peter Sellers played so many roles … he sometimes was not sure of his own identity. He was approached once by a fan who asked him, "Are you Peter Sellers?" [To which he answered], "Not today," and walked on.
Today in the Word, July 24, 1993.

As we struggle daily as both saint and sinner, both born again and born in sin, we might wrestle with that distinction at times when our Christian witness falls short.

We know we’ve missed the mark as, a witness to Christ in our life by are actions. Do others see in us Christ … or the sinfulness we are bound to? It’s probably both? But, if only we had known we were being watched we might have acted in a more Christ like way.

Or, like the story of Peter Sellers, when someone sees us in our daily live and wonders, “Are they a Christian?” Would we answer by are actions or lack thereof … “Not today!”

John the Baptist came as a witness to call to repentance those who like you and me are born sinful and unclean. He came to prepare the way for the one who would “Make straight the way of the Lord.”

It is this one who came, begotten of the Father, begotten before all worlds, who would take on human flesh at the incarnation so that all separation from God, whether mountains or valleys would be made smooth. That by his birth, born of a Virgin and made man, that he might restore what had been broken by sin.

So too you, who have been brought to faith by that same light of the world, Jesus Christ, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and by faith believe.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. I Thess. 5:16-18

It is that witness and light that shines forth in you as you joyfully bring God’s word to those who need to hear. It is that peace and comfort that you have received and also proclaim to others and it is that witness of Christ that as Isaiah proclaims binds up those broken by sin, releases those who are captive, and brings good news to the poor.

As we joy in Christ’s first coming and rejoice at this babe born in a manger, we too wait … for his second coming when he will gather his children, you and me, and all who are brought to faith to himself.

The witness of Christ is in you, rejoice!

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!

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