John 1:6-8; 19-28
I want to talk to you today about being plugged in and connected. 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 – as you know – means the “Anointed One”— the One whom God had for years promised He would one day send to set His people free.
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. Remember? John was plugged in and connected. He was pointing the way to Jesus the Messiah.
Now folks – I think the focus of our message today is this: I am convinced that in our world – in our society 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!
You see – part of the challenge for us would-be John the Baptizers is to get a handle on just what the Christ faith is. In essence, it boils down to this. Is the Christian faith a belief system – or is it a way of living? Well – OK – it’s both. Right beliefs are essential. And once we know what it is that we believe – the Christian faith then becomes a way of living.
Most of you know that one of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Stewart plays a man named George Bailey. George is a man with great dreams and ambitious plans. He wants to get out of the tiny town of Bedford Falls and make a name for himself, but fate seems to have other plans. Problems begin piling up on him.
Just as he is about to head off for college, his father has a stroke and George must take over the family business. His brother comes home from college with a new wife. Again George’s dreams are put on hold. Then George gets married, but there’s a run on the bank and he and his bride must use their honeymoon money to bail out the family business. He even fears that he will be tried and sent to jail over money that has disappeared from the family business. He finds himself saying, “It would be better if I had never been born!”
Believing he is ruined, George determines to take his own life. He is prevented from suicide by an angel. Do you remember the angel’s name? Yes! Clarence. Good old Clarence comes to George’s rescue. He gives George a chance to see what life would have been like for everyone else if he had never been born. Spoiler alert! In the end, George gets his life back. George’s faith in himself and his neighbors is restored as he finds out that his acts of kindness really have made a difference. George discovers that his really was a wonderful life.
How about you? One of the most important questions that we could ever ask of ourselves is this: Is the world a better place because I am in it? As disciples of Jesus Christ – I hope your answer is yes. If you believe that being a Christian is more than just a belief system – that being a Christian is also a way of life – then your answer is yes! Yes! Acts of love and kindness follow what we believe. And quite frankly – isn’t that what makes for a wonderful life?
The whole reason for this Advent-Christmas season is that the birth of Jesus Christ changes everything. Talk about someone whose life made a difference! His birth gives us new life – a wonderful life. The life we have been given – the new life that is ours in Jesus Christ – makes all the difference. For us – and for the people around us. Unfortunately we can’t have the gift that was given to George Bailey – to be able to see what life would have been like if we had never been born. But let me tell you – the people closest to you can tell. If you are modeling your life after that of Jesus Christ – if you are aiming at Christ likeness then let me tell you. Your life matters. Your life counts. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are plugged in and connected to Jesus.
Let me close with a story that shows how the love of Christ makes a difference. “It was a chilly night in 1949, just a day before Christmas. Elizabeth English and her husband Herman had an unusually busy day at the store [this was before the days of the shopping malls and online shopping; truly a mom and pop operation,] and all they cared about was getting a good night’s sleep. The only thing left unsold in their store that day [tells you how big the store was,] was a layaway package that was never claimed. Elizabeth carefully put it away before closing the store.
“The next morning, after she and Herman and their son Tom had opened their presents, Elizabeth was cleaning up the kitchen. Suddenly she felt a gentle urge that she should “take a walk.” It was crazy, it was cold outside, but she could not deny the power of this strong urge. And so, on this chilly Christmas Day she said to Herman, ‘I’m going to take a walk.’
“Reaching their store, she encountered two young boys. They were poorly dressed. Their clothes barely covered them against the cold. When they saw her one of them exclaimed, ‘There she is. See, I told you she would come.’
“What brought you boys here,” Elizabeth asked.
“We came looking for you,” one of the boys declared. “Our little brother Jimmy didn’t get any Christmas gifts and we want to buy skates. We have $3, see.”
With tearful eyes, Elizabeth was about to tell them they had no more skates. But then she remembered the unsold layaway package she had carefully put away the previous day. She opened the store and reached for the package sitting on the topmost shelf. And what do you know? . . . the package contained a pair of skates. Amazingly, the skates fit perfectly. “Have this,” one of the boys said, offering the $3 they had to Elizabeth. But Elizabeth wouldn’t take the money from them.
“Go buy yourselves some nice gloves,” she said with a smile.
Then she said to the boys, “How lucky you were that I came.”
“I knew you would come,” the older boy said.
“How?” she asked.
“I asked Jesus to send you,” he said. Elizabeth felt something tingling down her spine. It appeared that God was somehow involved in this beautiful event. “I asked Jesus to send you,” the older boy said . . . and somehow she knew it was true.
Elizabeth walked home with a warm glow in her heart. Dinner tasted more delicious that night. She went to bed with great joy in her heart. But the one thing that made that Christmas really joyous was the one thing which makes every Christmas joyous – Jesus was there. His love had touched her life.
Folks, how will the Christ – the Messiah – the Anointed One – 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 modern day John the Baptizers – who are 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.