Today is the second Sunday of Advent when we light the candle of peace in my faith community, and I am sitting at my desk, looking out the window, watching the few snow flakes that came disappear and change to freezing rain.
What we meditate upon each week in Advent is not set by some great rule book; different communities follow different patterns and in my church family it happens to be Hope, Peace, Joy, Love. Other churches follow other rituals: for the Methodists, the Sundays represent expectation, hope, joy, and purity; sometimes it is promise, light, love and hope…you see the point; the meaning of this Sunday can be different, depending on where you worship.
In some traditions, each candle represents a person important to the process of preparing the world for the coming of Emmanuel, and so, since we have been reading about John the Baptist the past few days, it seems fitting to think of his role in events and in our lives as we read our passage from the Gospel of John:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
I find myself thinking a lot this Advent about what all these passages have to say to me about the kind of discipleship that I am meant to live out on this path that I am walking. These few verses from the prologue of John’s Gospel (another John, not the Baptist) give me the best clues yet: “He came to witness, to testify to the light.”
I’ve said it before — I’m not a cradle Baptist; but one of the things I most admire about the traditions of the Baptist polity is the importance on testimony. One of the primary things that I have learned since joining a Baptist community is how to talk candidly about my faith — not how to force my beliefs on someone, but how to openly discuss what is in my heart when they ask the question and in return to listen to what they have to say.
What interests me most about this brief passage is the fact that John’s role as one who offers testimony was the most important part of his life for our writer — not that he baptized Jesus, not that he wandered the wilderness and preached, not that he was beheaded — not anything else about John’s story. “He came to witness, to testify to the light.”
I repeat…Advent does not come as a passive time of waiting and watching. If we are observing the second Sunday of Advent and lighting candles, we, like John, know the story that will unfold before us. Maybe it is our job to testify for those who do not know, to testify through our words and our lives about the light that lives, the Light of the World.