John 1:6-8; 19-28
Two weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of static. Intermittent, but persistent static. I tried to ignore it, but you know that that’s not going to work. So when my head finally cleared enough to figure out what was going on, I realized that it was coming from a radio somewhere. So I got up out of bed and realized it was coming from the clock radio in the guest bedroom. So I did the only thing I knew to do without turning on a light. I reached down – and I unplugged it! It’s one of those weird things. Neither Nancy nor I are able to explain why that clock radio decided to go off in the middle of the night when it had not gone off before. I don’t know why I hadn’t unplugged it in the first place. I mean – the only time it needs to be plugged in is when we have guests staying in that bedroom, right? Why waste the electricity if no one’s using the clock? Makes sense to me.
But that does remind me of the old George Burns – Gracie Allen show. If you’re younger than I am, you probably don’t remember that show, but Gracie played the role of a scatterbrained wife with her husband George.
In one episode Gracie called in a repairman to fix her electric clock. The repairman looked at the clock, and then told her, “Lady, there’s nothing wrong with your clock. You just didn’t have it plugged in.”
And Gracie replies, “I don’t want to waste electricity, so I only plug it in when I want to know what time it is.”
Our reading from John’s Gospel today focuses on the ministry of John the Baptizer. John is a man who is plugged in. He is plugged in to God – the One who sent him. And as a result, John makes connections.
John connects God – to the coming Messiah. Messiah means the “Annointed One”— the One whom God had for years promised He would one day send to set His people free. And we know – through people like John the Baptizer – that the Messiah has already come in the person of Jesus.
Through a ministry of baptism and repentance, John is preparing the way. He is getting people plugged in and connected to Jesus Christ – the Messiah.
So John connects God to Jesus. John gets people plugged in and connected to Jesus. And thus he gets people plugged in and connected to God through Jesus. Did you get all that?
You see, for years the people of Israel – the Jews – had been waiting for the Messiah. The prophets – especially the prophet Isaiah – had foretold what and who to look for. That’s why the religious leaders in Jerusalem asked John who he was, and why he was preaching about the Messiah.
“Who are you?” they ask. And John’s response is clear, “I am not the Messiah. I am not the prophet. I am not Elijah. I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.
In a world and in a culture waiting for Messiah – John helped build a sense of anticipation. John was plugged in and connected. He was pointing the way to Jesus the Messiah.
Now I’ve got to tell you – I am convinced that in our world – and in our culture – people are still looking for a Savior – a Messiah. What is needed are modern day John the Baptizers
– people who are plugged in
– people who are connected
– people who can offer hope to people who are searching
– to people who are hurting
– to people who are lost.
What we need are modern day John the Baptizers who point the way to Christ!
Let me share with you a story. It is by all accounts a true story, and “it happened at the John Reynolds Hospital in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey some years ago. There was a ward there for patients with a terminal illness who have no family. A woman from a Presbyterian church in New Jersey would take magazines down that hall two or three days a week. She came to one man's door that had a large NO VISITORS sign on it. She opened the door just a little and said, ‘I'm not here for a visit. I see the sign, but I do have some magazines.’
“He said, ‘Didn't you see the sign, NO VISITORS?’
“‘Yes,’ she said, ‘I did. But don't you see I've got Newsweek, Time, Forbes, Fortune, Sports Illustrated...’
“‘Sports Illustrated?’ he said. ‘Yes,’ she replied. I have a Sports Illustrated right here, would you like it?’ ‘Yes I would,’ he said. She gave him that week's issue. He thanked her, and she promptly went out the door.
“A couple of days later, she came back. She said, ‘I've got all these magazines again, and I did bring you a couple of back issues of Sports Illustrated. I even stopped on the way over and got a different sport magazine thinking you might like it.’
“‘Thank you very much,’ he said. ‘This is wonderful,’ Then he looked at her and said, ‘Now, wait a minute. You're not religious are you?’ ‘Now what do you mean religious,’ she asked. ‘Aw, you know what I mean, trying to ram religion down somebody's throat.’
“‘Oh, no, no, no – I'm not religious if that’s what you mean by being religious.’
“‘Good,’ said the man. ‘Just so we understand each other. I'm not religious
“Every week, twice a week, sometimes three, there she was coming in with Sports Illustrated and other sports magazines, and they would talk, just little snippets, for months. One day, after many months of this, he said to her. ‘You know, I have cancer. I'm going to die. My wife is gone, I don't have any children, my parents are gone. I have no brothers or sisters, I don't have any family. I don't have anybody. Next week I'm going to have surgery and I'm scared. I'm not sure I'll live through it – and even if I do, I'm not sure what I have to live for.’
“She listened, and then said, ‘When you come out of surgery, I'm going to be there, because I’m so grateful you’ve shared this with me.’ They had a good, intimate conversation, and then she, ever so slowly and graciously, said to him, ‘You know, you said you're not religious, but you've just shared with me that you've got surgery coming up. I'd like to pray that God will be with you. Would that be alright?’ He nodded.
“‘Yes, it would,’ he said. ‘I'd like that.’
“She prayed a few brief sentences, and closed with the Lord’s Prayer. When she got half-way through, she felt his hand reach into hers, and he recited with her:
“‘…And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever!’
“They both opened their eyes and she looked at him incredulously. He said, ‘I know, I know, I said I wasn't religious and I'm not really. I got so turned off with religion because people always tried to ram it down my throat. But my Grandmother and Grandfather taught me the great hymns of the church and helped me memorize passages of the Bible. But I was too stubborn to come back home to God – that is, until I met you.’
“Two months later, he died. But in his last months, [he came to know a certain peace. He faced his death without fear. He had met his Messiah – Jesus Christ – once again for the first time – through a Christ-like woman] – a woman who was plugged in and connected to Jesus Christ” – who was armed with nothing more than her faith and a Sports Illustrated magazine.
Folks, how will the Christ – the Messiah – Jesus – come to you this Advent season? And more importantly – will others see and recognize Jesus Christ the Messiah in you and me? If there is even just one result that I would like to see from what you see and hear today –– it would be my hope that you would leave here today plugged in and connected to Jesus Christ – and that through Jesus Christ – know that you are plugged in and connected to God. I could not ask for more than that today. And who knows? Maybe there is someone here today who is getting plugged in and connected – meeting Messiah Jesus again for the first time.
Therefore – as plugged in and connected disciples of Jesus Christ
– may the light of Christ shine in and through our lives
– May that light be a sign to others
– That they may hear
– That they may see
– That they may believe
That Jesus Christ is truly the Messiah – the One sent from God – the Savior of the world.