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Advent 2018 Devotional—December 10

PRAY

“Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).

READ

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
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 h.
He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

John 1:5-9

I am not sure what I was expecting to see, but there under thick glass were dull, concrete gray rocks and pebbles rocketed a quarter-million miles from the moon to the earth. I thought of how those moon samples didn’t look anything like the dazzling, radiant moon shining on us at night. Then I realized that the moon has no light in itself, but only reflects the brilliant splendor of the sun.

I think of that as I read about John the Baptist, who had no light in himself, but whose mission was to point people to the light of Jesus. The Gospel emphasizes that John the Baptist was not the light of God because many people thought he was the promised Messiah (Luke 3:15). They believed John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy: “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6b). After he died there were people still devoted to him, according him the highest place (Acts 18:25; 19:1-7). Even today there is a small Mandaean sect south of Baghdad, hostile to Christianity, yet preaching John the Baptist as their prophet.

Thus, we see the Gospel is careful to emphasize that John the Baptist was “a man sent by God”, in contrast to Jesus who is God. God closed out the Old Testament with His promise of John the Baptist’s coming to prepare the way for the Lord: “See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me...” (Malachi 3:1).

Isaiah also foretold the divine mission of John the Baptist in words we love to hear from Handel’s Messiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness; prepare ye the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3 KJV). That is why in many churches the first candle lit for Advent is called the Prophet’s Candle. For four hundred years, from the prophet Malachi to the disciple Matthew, the voice of the prophets was silent; then came the voice of John the Baptist!

John the Baptist understood his place in the scheme of things: he was the voice, but Jesus was the Word. John was not the light of God for the world, but a witness to that Light. It is beautiful to watch John the Baptist; he always knew it was not about him, but about Jesus. We see him living boldly, confident he was sent by God to point people to Jesus.

And as people began turning from following John the Baptist to following Jesus, John happily responds: “For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:29b-30). I like how The Message translation renders these words of John about Jesus: “This is the assigned moment for him [Jesus] to move to the center, while I slip off to the sidelines.” William Barclay nicely captures the joy that fired John the Baptist:

“It was not with envy he said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease; it was with joy. It may be that sometimes we would do well to remember that it is not to ourselves we must try to attach people; it is to Jesus Christ. It is not for ourselves we seek the loyalty of men; it is for him.” (William Barclay, The Gospel of John, Vol. 2)

As a minister I know how tempting and easy it is to make church and ministry about self, rather than about Jesus. The temptation of grandiosity lurks in wanting to be known for doing a great work for God, to be known for being so very humble. I am always put in my place by the words of Mother Teresa to anyone wanting to do a great work for God: “Find something small to do, and do it with great love.”

John the Baptist found what God had sent him to do: point people to Jesus. He discovered early on the secret of greatness, “Jesus must increase, but I must decrease!” (John 3:30). Oh to reflect to the world the light of Jesus! What joy!

PONDER

    • What might it mean for me, like John the Baptist, to ‘slip off to the sidelines’ in order for Jesus ‘to move to the center’?
    • What is something small I can do today with great love?

PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP

For a moment hold your PALMS DOWN in a symbolic gesture of letting go to God your worries for the day, the busyness of the season, and expectations of the way the holidays ought to be. Release all of these concerns to God.

Next, hold your PALMS UP as a symbolic gesture of receiving God’s gifts, provision, and guidance for today.

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You will bring water from rock for the community.
Numbers 20:8

We take our name from the Bible’s story of the archetypal Exodus journey during which the people of God came to a place in the desert wilderness where there was no water. Yet, it was there in a hostile wilderness that they experienced God’s provision of water for them and leadership into a new future. We trust in a God who still provides, renews and leads His people.

Rooted in the Word

We are a ministry of Christian renewal rooted in the Living Word, Jesus Christ, as He reveals Himself through His Written Word, the Bible. Through the Written Word we encounter the Living Word in the incomprehensible wonder of His love. We are mindful that knowledge, even of the Bible, “puffs up” while love “builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). We engage the Scriptures seeking to love more and know more of love. We purpose to search out God’s Word with both our minds and our hearts.

Ecumenical in Outlook

We honor all followers of Christ who have gone before us, and all who are among us now. We have much to learn and receive from all who have a lived experience of God’s transforming love. By reaching out to embrace the universal Body of Christ we strive to balance orthodoxy (right belief) and right living (orthopraxy).

In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.
(Rupertus Meldenius, 1582 – 1651)

Experiencing the Living God

We thirst to know God and not just to know about Him. We long for a living experience of God. We believe that God breaks into our world on the holy ground of His Word, and seek through His Spirit a living encounter with Him there. We daily aim to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength (Mark 12:30).

The arms of God be around my shoulders,
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbor in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being. Amen.
—Fursey of Yarmouth, 6th century Irish monk

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