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 him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. (John 1:6-8)
Christianity is based upon a message of faith which boldly declares the powerful presence of God came into the world in the physical form of Jesus Christ. Unlike the other gospel stories of the birth of Christ, John begins his gospel with a creation narrative in which light breaks into the oppressive shroud of darkness and claims eternal victory. “through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1: 4&5)
John the Baptist came to testify about this new light which is about to dawn and will transform the world forever. The call of John was to invite all persons to recall what the true understanding of living in the light meant. This was a necessity in order for us realign ourselves with God while preparing for the task of sharing the light with others those who dwelt in darkness.
My friends, the scriptures clearly suggest that John the Baptist’s ministry was not lived out in some alternative ethereal world, but a ministry which needed to address a community deeply scarred by human oppression, poverty, religious tensions, and a repressive government. John dwelt in an exile because the message he preached was quite unpopular. The light which he prophesied would shine to reveal how many, under the guise of religion, had become active participants in the oppression of God’s people. John walked in the shadow of the prophet Isaiah who declared, “he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion-- to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” (Is. 61: 1-3)
My friends, we live in times no different than those of John the Baptist where now the oppression of the poor may have changed its clothing but remains the same ravenous, destructive creature; still using the guise of religion, social correctness, political philosophy, racial superiority. Many would choose to sustain poverty, hunger, lack of health care and unemployment in order to sustain the beast of darkness and greed whom they worship.
Advent is season of remembrance, a call to repentance and that of a baptism for fresh starts; it is the reason the darkness cannot extinguish the light. We are called like moths to the light of Christ; finding joy, hope and a warmth which enables us to do the right thing. Jesus demands us to do the right thing, or as St. Paul shares, “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thes.5:22) My friends, there is no greater evil in our nation today than the evil of racism which can drive some people to pursue injustice at any length. In the past, many were willing to risk the fabric of this Nation to sustain this evil and to lie to sustain an evil myth of those whose skin in different. Their descendants still crusade for the death of the idea of America even while invoking the name of God in this pursuit still. This week we witness two worlds in which a white man in Staten Island ran over a cop with his vehicle and was later merely arrested without even a breathalyzer test. While in Ohio a black man entering his house with a sandwich was shot in the back and killed. So, while some fight for the freedom to go and drink in bars in the midst of a pandemic; black folks cannot even venture out in search of food.
To the people of God dwelling in the shadows of this evil, oppressive force named racism that clothes itself in coats sometimes more fanciful than that worn by Joseph, do not lose hope. Advent says do not surrender to the darkness; do not allow anyone or anything to steal your joys. Your victory has already been won. Choose each day to live in the light of hope, peace, joy, and renewal. Let our lives become the living testimony so that all might believe in the power and name of Jesus. Let us be bearers of the light of God through Christ Jesus.