Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Lights Are Not Enough

Last night I went outside to look for any Geminid meteors that might be bright enough to be seen through the urban light pollution, some of which was due to all the houses in our neighborhood that had placed electric "candles" in the windows as part of our typical Advent/Christmas decorations.

Mea culpa

The brightness of the sky-glow made me question the need for all those Advent/Christmas lights. Jesus should be able to find his way without our help. It seemed to me that humanity's ability to light the night might be a reflection our growing amnesia of the powers of darkness, of our needs, and of some of our ancient Christian themes.
"A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel." Luke 2:32 King (KJV)
Only children are afraid of the dark these days. We make our own light.

Today's lesson featured the interrogation of John the Baptist, who testified to the light, and the question posed to him of by what authority he performed his baptisms.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?' He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, 'I am not the Messiah.' And they asked him, 'What then? Are you Elijah?' He said, 'I am not.' 'Are you the prophet?' He answered, 'No.' Then they said to him, 'Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?' He said, 'I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, 'Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?' John answered them, 'I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.' This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing."
John 1:6-8,19-28
John was clearly a target not only of Herod but also of the priests and Levites, much like Jesus will be during his time.

Given the importance of John the Baptist, isn't it odd that he is not commonly found as a Christmas tree ornament? Maybe one holding a candle?

Given his usual depiction, maybe not.

But doesn't our season of Advent remind us to also be preparing the way for the Lord?

Now I don't expect you all to rush out and don a garment of camel's hair with a leather belt around the waist, nor do I expect you to live on a diet of locusts and wild honey, but maybe in this increasingly secular world where children may not have been raised in the Christian faith, maybe we should step up and proclaim the good news as well,
" give knowledge of salvation unto his people." Luke 1:78
We are still a people in need of salvation, and I think that is where the Christian understanding of reality differs from the prevailing worldview in the west. As Albert Mohler wrote in his blog this week,
"The Christmas story cannot be reduced to a sentimental tale that gives humanity a warm glow." 
No, humanity was and still is broken, living in darkness, and we are still in need of a redeemer.

So maybe we need to keep the candles lit in the windows of our homes to signal to the rest of humanity the need for the True Light to come into our darkened world.

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