By Pat Russell
Considering the sermon by Phil Wood, entitled "A Man Sent from God," on December 13, 2020
John 1:6-8, 19-28
6There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to
testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8He himself was not
the light; he came only as a witness to the light...
19Now this was John's testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Messiah."
21They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not."
"Are you the Prophet?" He answered "No."
22Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'"
24Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
26"I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know.
27He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to
28This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was
baptizing.1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
16Rejoice always, 17pray continually, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21but test them all;
hold on to what is good, 22reject every kind of evil.
23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your
whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.
This week we journey towards Christmas with joy in our hearts. Phil gave us a wonderful picture of John the Baptist, who was filled with joy as he journeyed towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Remember that John the Baptist was filled with joy even in the womb when he came near Jesus residing in his womb. (Lk 1:43) Look closely at the picture of John the Baptist that was on our bulletin. What strikes you about John in this portrait? He is sharing with someone who has found forgiveness.
Let us come near to Jesus this week and experience the joy that he has for us in this season. Joy is not about pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of well-being. Hope in the goodness of God is joy’s indispensable support. - Dallas Willard
Phil encouraged us to live with the expectation that something wonderful is going to happen, because it is! As the commentary says, “… the very promise of the Second Advent has kindled great hope and gladness in the heart of the Christian community. No matter that the promise is yet unrealized. Its effect is immediate and unmistakable. Christians will "rejoice," "pray," and "give thanks" (vs. 16-18) as if that advent had already occurred. For as far as their own hearts are concerned, it has occurred indeed.”
Phil encouraged us to know our own identity and stand firm in that truth like John did because the evil of our day would like to steal it from us. He encouraged us to live with courage when facing the conflict that surrounds us—the courage to be hopeful, peace-filled, joyful, and loving. He encouraged us to be that voice calling in the wilderness to those around us, “Make straight the way for the Lord!”
As Ruth Haley Barton says, “Advent is the perfect time to practice testing everything so we can hold fast to what is real and good. When we feel ourselves drowning in a sea of superficiality, we cry out to the One who calls us, for he is faithful and he will do it. (1 Thess. 5)”
And now, today, as you contemplate joy in your life this week, take time to reflect on Phil’s questions: Who are you? Who are you not? What is your world trying to make you into that would “quench the Spirit” within you? Who else do you know to be a “voice in the wilderness” for you? What do they inspire in you? How can you choose to live into joy this week?