Year B Advent 3 John 1 2011
John 1:6-8, 19-28

As a child I remember that the most difficult part of Christmas was simply waiting for it to come. From Thanksgiving to December 25 seemed more like an eternity than a month. Days seemed like weeks. Weeks felt like seasons. Time seemed to stand still.

Waiting is foreign to our society. It seems unnatural. We hunger for immediate gratification. The idea of delayed satisfaction is a stranger to our thinking.

The symbols of our unwillingness to wait are all around us. Fast food chains boom because we don't have time to eat. We stand in crooked lines, then yell out an order, get it down in five minutes and then get back to the rat race. We haven't got time to sit down and read a book anymore. Perhaps it is a sign of the times that we have condensed versions of the Bible. In kitchens all over America there are gadgets to get the meal prepared quickly. I would guess Mr. Coffee started it all. Simply spoon in the coffee and pour water. The coffee is made before you can even find a cup. When we become sick we want to be made well now, not later. Medicine, doctors, pastoral care and love are often rejected if they are not swift.

I, like you, accept most of our no—wait approach to life, with the exception of instant potatoes, which are intolerable. But the truth is that, though we do not like waiting, waiting is a part of living. We must wait for payday, a break, quitting time, and for the mailman. When you do your Christmas shopping, you had certainly better be prepared to wait in a line to get checked out, wait to get a parking place, and wait through at least four red lights before making a left hand turn on Poplar Ave.

But there are also very serious matters for which we wait. Some wait for health to return, some for the coming of food stamps, some for marriage or remarriage. We must wait for peace. A scared child waits for the coming of morning, and a scared adult awaits death. And an expectant mother waits for delivery. Waiting can be pure agony. It's like the jury is out.

The problem is that scripture time and time again tells us that God's clock is wound in a different way. Time is different to him. We look at seconds; he looks at the ages. Waiting, not hurrying is one of his characteristics. And this waiting God tells his people that often, they too must wait.

And that is where the story of Christmas really begins. It begins thousands of years before the birth of Christ. They longed for that one who would bring light out of darkness, and make the blind to see. They longed for that one who would turn their sorrow into joy, and vanquish their enemies. But, God said, you must wait. Let us look at how God's people have waited throughout the ages...

  1. Waiting in the Old Testament
  2. John the Baptist's Waiting
  3. The Waiting in Advent

Bear the Light
John 1:6-8, 19-28

The five year old nephew of the bride was chosen to be in charge of carrying the rings down the aisle. At the wedding rehearsal he was unusually unruly. He kept leaping out at people, baring his teeth at and then chasing the flower girls. He growled and snarled as he practiced going down the aisle. He brandished the pillow like a pistol. Finally his mother pulled him aside and demanded to know why he was behaving so badly.

"But Mom," he explained, "I have to act fierce — I'm the 'Ring Bear.'"

Like so many of us that little boy misunderstood just what role he was supposed to play. He thought he was called to be big, imposing, fearsome, large and in charge. He thought he was to BE the "star of the show." He thought the spotlight was his.

But he wasn't supposed to BE a bear, he was supposed to offer the supportive role of "ring bearer." His role was important. The pastor, not to mention the bride and groom, needed those rings down front. But the focus of the wedding ceremony was not on the ring bearer. The reason for the wedding celebration was not him.

In this week's Advent gospel text John, the author of the fourth gospel, has no trouble distinguishing the one who "bears witness" to the light from the One who actually IS the light... presents Leonard Sweet