His Name Is John
December 16, 2017
Verse: John 1:6–1:8
Christ Lutheran Church
December 17, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
His Name Is John
There was a man commissioned by God whose name was John. He came as a witness in order to testify concerning the Light, so that all people might believe through him. He himself was not the Light, but appeared in order to testify concerning the Light. John 1:6-8
On the 3rd Sunday of Advent the church again encounters John the Baptist, who is one of the New Testament’s most towering figures. We first meet John at the Annunciation when the Angel Gabriel visited the Blessed Virgin Mary to announce the birth of the world’s Savior. John was born about 6 months before Jesus, surrounded by mystery, miracles and prophecies. Though it was customary to name the first son after his father, the angel Gabriel instructed his father to name him John, which means: Grace. And that is what he did. At John’s circumcision, dumbstruck Zechariah, wrote on a tablet, “His name is John!” (Luke 1:63)
We next meet John 30 years later as the Lord begins his public ministry. We learn in today’s Gospel that he was commissioned and sent by God to prepare the world to welcome its Savior; and John did his job admirably. He preached about sin and grace (as his name implies), and he baptized all who repented. But John was also very clear that he himself was not the Christ. Not the Light. But that he was sent by God in order to testify concerning Jesus. To witness that Jesus is the Light of the world; and that whoever believes in him will never walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life. (John 8:12)
Today your name, O Church, is John! And it is your commission to do what John did. To testify concerning the Light so that through you, all people will become disciples of Jesus. But how is that done?
If you believe the chatter of the last 50 years, which you definitely should not, every Christian is supposed to be a missionary. Every Christian is supposed to be an “evangelist.” Every disciple of Jesus is supposed to confront and convert every person he can. But the whole affair has been a sham!
Instead of witnessing to the Light, American churches have witnessed to themselves, their pride, and their programs. But in spite of 50 years of religious activism American churches keeps shrinking. And so let us pray today that after a half century of doing the wrong thing the church would wake up, and return to the reservation. That Christians – clergy and laity alike – would remember that the Holy Spirit is in charge of church growth, and that we are not the Holy Spirit.
That said, your name is John! And there will always be occasions when you will need to stand up for your religion. Speak up for what is right. And, as occasions present themselves, let people who have lost their way know that Christ is your Light. That he is the source of your confidence and joy in the midst of many trials and temptations, in life and in death.
In the normal course of things your most persuasive witness is not your words, however, but how you live your life! This is what the Lord teaches us when he says, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
As a practical matter even small things make a difference today as the Western World flees from the remaining Light of Christ, and enters the New Dark Age with an alacrity it will soon lament. Do you send holiday cards, or Christmas cards? That image, that hymn verse, or Bible passage in your Christmas card makes a difference. Do your Christmas decorations consist of sugar plums and fairies, or of patent Christian images: the manger, the cross, the angels, shepherds and Magi? Your name is John. Witness to the Light. It makes a difference.
But these things, though important, are by-products of what we are doing right now. Today the church is John and it is our corporate calling to assemble and to do what we are doing here today; and to support, promote, defend and build up the church in every way possible. Because this is the place where the Light is given witness; and it is through the church that all men come to believe; which means to be baptized, and become sincere disciples of Jesus. What we do here each Sunday is true Evangelism, it is the Grace of God factually given. This is the thing that the Lord has assigned to us to do as he says in St. Luke, “This Do in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)
But critics complain. Yes, they say, that is all well and good. But if people don’t come to the church how will they hear? How will they know? How will they believe? There are several answers to such a charge.
The most obvious is that we are people. We count. Each of us was conceived and born in sin. Each of us came into this world as a slave of sin, and captives of “the domain of darkness.” But by baptism we were “transferred into the Kingdom of God’s Beloved Son,” and now we are in the church. (Colossians 1:13).
Moreover, Holy Scripture teaches that: “No one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3) That means that we, individually or corporately, are unable to create faith in people. Are unable to instill the love of Christ, the love of God, the love of Light and Truth in people. But we can do what we are assigned – the very thing we are doing now. We can assemble to proclaim the Gospel, the Grace of God as our name, John, implies, so that the Spirit has a place to bring people. And we can make sure that the true faith is kept alive in our homes, our marriages, and especially among our children.
Our name is John and we exist to give witness to the Light. So that people can hear God’s Word, turn away from evil, believe in Christ, be baptized, worship, pray, commune with Jesus in the Flesh, and live with God now in time, and there in eternity. Amen.