John 1:6-8; 19-28
Darkness will not prevail.
Five teenagers died in a car accident in New Oxford on Monday;
two more teens and their 9 year old sister died on Tuesday inLancaster.
We have been enveloped by darkness this week;
the promise John gives is that the darkness will not prevail.
We get a different picture of John in the gospel this week from last.
He’s not so much John the Baptizer.
He’s not so much John the Wildman eating honey and locusts.
When the Jewish leaders ask him, “Who are you?”
He says he’s not the Messiah.
He’s not Elijah.
He’s not even the prophet.
So you might wonder as the religious leaders did…
Who is he and what is he doing?
Who gives him the authority to say or do anything?
John answers, that he is John the Witness –
– the one called by God to witness
to the light in the midst of a dark world –
– to point others not to himself
but in the direction of Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
And that’s how artist after artist has painted the one we call John the Baptist –
simply standing and pointing.
In fact some call it the “John gesture” –
a figure with an index finger pointed up.
Gruenwald, daVinci, Raphael, Caravaggio, etc
– all have painted John the Baptist pointing –
– pointing to Jesus the light in the midst of a darkened world.
I don’t know if I’ve ever really been in a place that has been truly dark –
completely without light.
Like most of us, I’ve pretty much lived my life
in a place and time where I could summon light whenever I wanted
by flipping on a switch, or pulling up a shade,
or when really desperate, turning on my cellphone.
There has always been moonlight or starlight or headlights or streetlights
to mitigate the darkness even in the most remote of places I’ve traveled.
When light comes to us so easily,
we can forget the terror that utter darkness can bring.
Think back to the book of Exodus.
The Israelites were enslaved inEgypt.
God was angry.
God caused 10 plagues – each with increasing strength
to fall upon the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to let the people go.
The final plague – the one that finally worked,
was the death of the first born children born to the Egyptians.
But the penultimate plague – the 9th plague –
the one which was greater than frogs or gnats,
greater than hail or locusts,
God called darkness to fall upon the Egyptians for 3 days.
A darkness which was so complete their eyes could not adjust.
They couldn’t see each other.
We’re told it was a darkness so deep it could even be felt.
I imagine that’s the kind of darkness the families of the youth
in New Oxford and Lancaster are feeling right now.
A darkness of plague-like intensity.
And so we call for John the Witness – to point to the light;
to testify to us that the darkness will not prevail;
light will come.
Each of us struggles with our own areas of darkness.
For some it’s the darkness of illness, or loss, or loneliness.
A cousin of mine took his life on Thursday.
I know that I’m not the only one here whose family
has been affected by the darkness of suicide.
I know that I’m not the only one here whose joy in the celebration of Christmas
will be tempered by absence.
Ironically, my cousin’s name was John, too.
Somehow my John – to me he was “Johnny” – at that one critical moment
was not able to see the tiniest of light that was there.
No matter how deep the darkness,
the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
is that there is light.
There is always some light.
God didn’t come into our world as a little baby
and then go away again.
God came to stay.
To bring light wherever there is darkness.
That was John the Witness’ testimony.
Who knows in what form we’ll see that light?
Who would have thought that in New Oxford, the light of Christ
was fluorescent and in the shape of golden arches
as people waited in line for hours to get into the fast food restaurant and contribute money to support the families?
Over $14,000 was raised!
This dark world needs more witnesses to light.
This world needs more testimony from people like you and me who
will bear witness to a God of light and life,
not as much by our words but by our lives –
by living hope.
The owner of the New Oxford McDonald’s,
the employee who made the suggestion,
the high school student who inspired the idea,
the workers who came in early and stayed late to make it happen,
the police officers who directed traffic,
the families who waited patiently in their cars, never complaining,
the reporter who shared the news story,
the editor who chose to put it on the front page…
all lived hope for the families of those teens,
and also for us in a grieving community which needed to see some light
in the midst of this tragedy.
They gave testimony of light in the midst of darkness.
In this time of Advent,
as we prepare for the 1st coming of the light of the world,
as we marvel at the Christmas lights,
may we also marvel at the Christ light – the light which promises
that no matter what, no matter what,
darkness will not prevail.
And may we bear witness to that light with our lives.