John the Baptist had an important, growing, even thriving ministry among the people of Israel. He was in a place away from the major cities and from the popular holy places where people practiced their religion. He was “in the wilderness” preaching and exhorting the nation as a whole to come back to God and to repent of the lives they had been living away from him. The main goal of his ministry was to point to the Messiah when he saw him. John’s ministry was one of proclamation – to tell the people that there is One who is coming who will be more powerful than he is and will baptize not with water but with the Spirit. He believed that the world around him needed to know that Jesus is amongst us.
Many asked John if he was the one the nation had been waiting for. John consistently pointed to the One who was coming after him because he ranks ahead of him; that the Messiah’s ministry must increase and that his own ministry, his proclamation and witness must decrease (John 3.30). It is not me, he is the One we have been waiting for... behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! John came as a witness to what was to happen in the life of Jesus and to point people to him. if you wish to think of it this way, John the Baptist consistently told people “I am not the One” whereas Jesus consistently says throughout the Gospel of John that “I am”.
And this statement, that that Jesus is the “I am” is incredibly important. John the Baptist and John the Gospel writer are human witnesses of a cosmic, eternal and divine event. God has moved into this world in an unprecedented way in and through Christ. They are signing his presence by actively witnessing to it through their own lives. To not witness what God is doing is to proclaim divine absence and our disbelief in God’s ability to come and reach us where we are. If we are to act in this way then we are sinning and thus separated from God. It means that we are broken, hurt and dying people. And that is why Jesus came and is coming again – that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And if you worry that you have done something that is simply unforgivable, that God simply would not let you off the hook for, that too was covered by Christmas. There is nothing original about your sin and God has come in Christ to do something about it. There is nothing that God cannot overcome in your life, once the Light has been put upon it. For certain there are going to be moments of struggle and pain but the greatest thing about Christmas and the coming of the King is that when everything is made new again, all of it will be behind us. We will truly be free and the work of Christmas will have only just begun.
So where does this leave us? We need to seek out Christ, because we need the Light to see. Our eyes will never adjust to the darkness. We need the light – even if it is only by a single, little, flickering flame. We need the Light and to follow it, not just so that we can help Jesus rescue those who are sitting in darkness, but so that we can find our way home too. Our eyes need to the Light so that we can get to “see” level and then with John the Baptist and so many other people over the last two millennia, actively show people the King in his true light. Then we will been seen for who we truly are, faithful reflections of his light and that he really is the One we have been waiting for. We must continue the ministry.
Maranatha! (Come Lord Jesus, come quickly)