Can You See Him in Your Reflection?

Have you ever watched a cat, when it's sleeping? It will follow the ray of sunlight as it streams in the window and moves around the room as the sun arches through the afternoon sky. It doesn't matter whether it is summer or winter, hot or cold. A cat will lay right in it, its fur soaking up that sunlight and radiating warmth - when they let you cuddle them - that is.

Now me, I will sit in the sunlight these days - not for the warmth, but so that I can read the fine print in the textbooks. All of us will find reasons to seek out light - suntans, photosynthesis happens - fruit trees, flowers, and vegetable crops grow. Notice how indoor plants lean toward the windows? It melts the ice and snow. Exposes film for processing photos. Without light we could not see, for it is the light reflected off or absorbed by objects that creates colors, shapes and images on our eyes. The beauty of the Northern Lights graces the skies over Alaska. Video games, movies, computer screens all operate with light. Laser light is a tool used by surgeons to correct vision. We have solar powered heating systems, calculators, and other electronic devices. The value of light is immeasurable.

In fact, medical science has recognized that many people are at high risk for depression during the darker months of the winter. They call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. Apparently there is a cluster of brain cells located next to the retinal nerves of the eyes that sends information about the amount of sunlight to a part of the brain that helps regulate our energy and emotions to prepare us for activity or hybernation. And how do doctors treat it? By bathing the patient in light.

Light, a most essential component for the existence of life. And light is the image that gospel text uses to describe the Word of God - Jesus. Just think, God's created all that we see and feel and taste and discover. And God spoke and God appeared in human form for the whole world to see and feel and taste and discover. In Jesus. With a touch of his hand, Jesus healed, stormy seas were calmed, nets filled with fish, water turned to wine, a few loaves fed thousands. And the dead came forth from the grave.

Let me read you the previous 5 verses.

THIS is the good news that John the Baptist testified to. That the source of all life was now among us as life itself.

What do we know about this man named John? The Pharisees didn't seem to know. They asked him if he was the Messiah, Elijah, or a prophet, or someone else? Why was he going around baptizing if he wasn't someone special? How strange. For just 30 years earlier John's mission was proclaimed. Both of John's parents were members of priestly families. His mother, Elizabeth a descendant of Aaron and his father Zechariah a priest in the house of Abijah. In fact, because he did not believe the angel, Zechariah was literally struck speechless for nine months after John's conception. All the other priests he worked with knew this, in fact, they were there when his tongue was loosed and he spoke of his son's future and his divine calling. Had they forgotten so quickly?

But John had not forgotten. In fact his whole life had been preparation for this time to be the voice crying out in the wilderness. To prepare the way for Jesus. To witness to the light that means life. He did not have the advantage that we do today. We have the entire New Testament to help us understand what Jesus is. All of those miracles, all of those significant events of Jesus' ministry had not yet happened. But John knew. Luke's gospel tells us he knew when he was but six months developed in his mother's womb. He recognized the Lordship of an embryo that was still only a glow on Mary's face. No doubt his parents told him the stories of the angel's announcements. He probably played with his cousin Jesus when they were little boys, skipping rocks in the Jordan river, playing tag in the outer yards of the temple grounds. Tradition has it that when John was seven he was sent off to a special community in the wilderness to learn the scriptures, to live an austere life, to wait for God to call him into action. We know he lived on bugs and wild honey and wore clothing made of skins. His hair was long. He had long ago given up any luxuries and focused instead on the Word that had been handed down through the generations.

And now he was witnessing to that Word. He was calling people to change their lives to recognize the light that was already among them. I can picture him walking through a crowd, turning to everyone, seeking out their eyes, fixing his gaze intently, speaking to them of the very source of life. "Come be baptized. Be bathed first in water. Then when he comes among you be bathed in his light." Oh, John knew he was not the light, but he had absorbed it all his life, he lived it, breathed it, and radiated it if you dared get close to him. Ban the depression of the darkness of the world.

Now, here we are in a season that is at its darkest. Not only winter's short days of sunlight, but we have circled around again into man's most sinful nature - another season of humankind's inhumanity to itself. Incomprehensible isn't it, this cycling always toward self-destruction.

Yet, we stubbornly continue to brighten up this season with the colorful twinkling lights on rooftops, around windows, lining sidewalks, trees all a glitter with shiny ornaments, tinsel, garland. Why? Does it simply look pretty and sparkling against the new fallen snow? Or are we like Luther who brought a tree inside and decked it out with candles because it reminded him of the vastness of creation, each flame like the light from the stars sparkling in the night sky? Or are these lights the unspoken words of a hope for the future of the world? Each lit bulb a word of prayer, a witness that we still believe in the promise that Christ will come.

Is it an attempt to overcome the darkness that tries to overwhelm us? The international news is frightening. And I need to be bathed in Jesus' light some days in order to smile.

When you wake up in the morning, stand in front of the mirror, and flip on the switch, what do you see? Do you look bedraggled from staying up late watching TV, horror movies, playing video or computer games, working on projects, writing research papers. What would John have seen? Twigs, leaves and bugs caught in his long beard from sleeping on the hard ground? Or would he have looked past the surface and into eyes intensely alight with the passion of his mission - to share the light of Christ, the presence of God among us?

Many of you were baptized, maybe 10, 20, 30, 50, 70 years ago. And when you were your parents promised to place this book into your hands so that you could become immersed into the light it contained so you could proclaim the praise of God and bear his creative redeeming Word to all the world.

You were also given a candle and the pastor said, Let Your Light shine before others. . . so you can glorify your Father in heaven.

Christmas Eve service, when everyone's face is aglow with candlelight. Remember, You were created by God, filled with life in the light of Christ, gifted with witness, sustained by the Holy Spirit? What else can you do? But go forth and let the whole world see that you have been claimed by Christ.

Read other sermons by Pastor Joan