In the Gospel reading today John the Baptist gives testimony to God. When asked, “Who are you?” He didn’t respond with what we would expect, something like, “I am John the Baptist.” Instead he says what he is not, “I am not the Messiah.” He is asked further, “What do you say about yourself?” Again he makes no reference as to what we would normally expect someone to say, but again references Jesus, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.”*** John continues to point to the Lord, to the extreme of excluding himself. He is a witness to one who is greater than himself.
We see other examples of this humble witness in our other readings today. In the canticle from Luke** we hear Mary’s proclamation of praise, after being chosen to be the mother of God. Mary recognized the greatness that God was accomplishing through her and gave glory to him for that, and all that he would accomplish for generations to come. Further, we hear the prophet Isaiah* rejoicing in the Lord for providing for his people and setting them free from sin.
This reminded me of something a friend of mine would say: “There are two things that are important for us to remember; there is a God, and I am not him. When he told me this, at first I was like, “Well yes, of course.” But as I thought about it more I realized that this is the constant struggle for us. This is where most of our problems lay. So often we think that what we do and what we accomplish is our own doing. But when we recognize that what we have been given is from above we can be humble witnesses. And we begin by confirming, like John the Baptist, “I am not the Messiah.”*** Looking at his example, as well as Mary’s, we can see a living witness of what it means to live our lives for Christ. How would you respond when asked, “What do you say about yourself?”
Today, and during this season of repentance, we see this theme of recognizing and acknowledging how little we are before God and realizing our faults and feelings. But we also see this immense love that our God has for us, in wanting to provide for us and in wanting to draw us to himself, by sending his son to us, for us. He continues to work in our hearts and in our lives when we recognize that He is God, and we are not.
So as we celebrate this ‘Gaudete Sunday’ (Sunday of rejoicing), as we are over halfway through Advent, may we come with joy to celebrate and remember that our story is about a God who continues to pursue us, in His great love for us, no matter where we turn and no matter how far we turn from Him. Let us bear witness to this in our lives as we continue our Advent journey and as we go forth to our families, our community, into the world.
Scripture references taken from:
* Isaiah 61.1-2a,10-11
** Luke 1
*** John 1.6-8,19-28
1 Thessalonians 5.16-24