You are the light, the anointed one, sent in the Spirit to drive away the shadows and darkness of this world.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Third Sunday of Advent, year B
Texts: John 1:6-8, 19-28; Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; with references to Matthew 5:14-16
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
John the Evangelist spends a lot of time telling us what John the Baptizer is not.
John is not the Light no darkness can overcome, the evangelist says, he came to testify to the Light. When asked who he was, the evangelist says John made it clear. Are you the Messiah? No. Are you Elijah? No. Are you the prophet promised in Deuteronomy to come as a new Moses? No.
No, John said. I’m the one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of God. I’m not worthy to tie Messiah’s shoes. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is coming, and I’m nothing like that One.
We can relate. Today Isaiah proclaims the job description of the One who is coming, the One the Spirit of God fills: this One will bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty and release to the captives, and comfort all who mourn. This is the Light of the World the evangelist declares that can overcome all darkness and shadows, the Light who reveals the heart of God.
That doesn’t sound like us. If asked, we’d probably join John and say “you’re thinking of someone else, Jesus, the Christ, God-with-us. We can tell you about him, testify to him. But we’re not anything like that.”
And yet, we are. You are.
You are the light of the world, Jesus says. (Matthew 5:14) Do you think he doesn’t know you?
You’re anointed, too. In Hebrew, that’s “Messiah,” in Greek, “Christ.” Maybe you’re not “The Messiah,” capital The, capital M, but you are messiah, anointed, Christ, in your baptism. You were given light at your baptism and told to carry it into the world to shine Christ’s light into all corners.
Which means along with Isaiah, and with Jesus, who first claimed these words in his sermon in his hometown, you, also, can say, “The Spirit of God is upon me, because God-Who-Is has anointed me to bring good news to the oppressed, anointed me to bind up the brokenhearted, anointed me to proclaim liberty and release to the captives, anointed me to comfort all who mourn.”
That’s your job, too. Because you . . . are the light of the world.
And what might happen if you shone your light on the pain of this world?
What good news could you bring to those who are oppressed? You could find your own place in the task to make this a society of justice for all, of equality and fairness for all, especially those who are crushed by our society because of who they are, whether their gender or color or class or education or ethnicity or whatever.
How could you bind up those who are brokenhearted? Your kindness could knit mourning and broken hearts together in healing. And you can be grace to those brokenhearted who have caused or received so much pain they feel trapped in it, and perpetuate it, and help end that cycle of revenge with your grace.
What freedom can you proclaim to those who are captive to systems beyond their control, and what liberty to those imprisoned and thrown away? You could support leaders who seek to dismantle unjust systems, and bring freedom to those trapped in them, and leaders who seek to heal society rather than build bigger walls and stronger prisons.
You are the light of the world, Jesus says. In your baptism into Christ you’re not just carrying God’s light into the world, you are God’s light. You can do all these things with the Spirit’s grace.
Because you don’t want to hide your light under a basket, Jesus also says.
It’s easy to assume you’re not the one God needs. That you can’t do much with your life and abilities. That the problems of the world are too much. But the Spirit of God has anointed you, Isaiah says, your baptism says, made you Christ. The light of God is in you, and already has been shining out on your world through you and making a difference, if you just look back and see.
So don’t worry so much about what you can’t do. Christ is far more interested in what you can, with the Spirit’s grace.
There’s a marvel about light that we sing at every Easter Vigil.
In the great Exsultet which begins the liturgy, we sing of the wonder of the light of the Paschal Candle which – unlike most things we know – isn’t diminished when it’s divided, it’s expanded. The light of a single candle will break the darkness of a huge room. But if someone places their candle next to that wick and ignites it, the light is greater, not less. The more candles that are lighted, the brighter the room is. So you can carry your light and light others with it, and let that stream again and again into the world. Until the dawn breaks over this world for all God’s children, and creatures, and creations.
You’ve known this since you were a child, by the way. You learned to sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. All around the neighborhood. All over the world.”
It turns out it’s not a children’s song. It’s the song of the Triune God’s dreams for you. Go ahead and sing it, and see where God’s Light will shine through you next.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen