Sermon: “Focus on the Light of Christ”             

LSB Series B

3rd Sunday in Advent; December 13, 2020

Gospel Reading: John 1:6-8, 19-28

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about that light (John 1:6-8).

Where is your focus these days? 

Whenever you go to the eye doctor, he or she directs you to look straight ahead and fix your eyes on whatever is directly before you. In one of those practices, you are to fix your eye on one letter and determine if the first lens or the second lens provides better vision. This is done again and again in an effort to provide you the most accurate prescription in each eye. 

So, as you consider the lenses you have been given in life, where is your focus these days?

So much of our focus is directed at the world around us. And when we look around us, so much of our focus is filled with fear. We fear getting sick. We fear getting exposed to the virus. We fear being around people, or getting too close to people. We fear what the current President will do. We fear what the President-elect will do. We fear what the next executive order will state. We fear going to the store. We fear going to church. We fear going to work. We fear that the world has forever changed and normal will never return. So much of our focus is on fear.

As pastor, I am left to wonder what this fear has done to our congregation in the long haul? What will this mean for future worship attendance? What will this mean for our ministries? What will this mean for the mission and outreach of the Church at large? Have we lost sight of what it means to be a Church and reach out to the lost? Has fear gripped our focus so tightly that we have become more about self-preservation than sharing the good news of great joy with all people? Time will tell, but we have to be honest that much of the focus is on fear these days. 

To focus on a fear has a way of darkening our spirits and our lives. It can be like this cloud that hovers overhead. And it can be so oppressive that it penetrates our thoughts, our conversations, and even how we feel and act physically.

Just think about it. When was the last time you had a conversation and the pandemic in some nature was not a part of that conversation at some point? (Pause) Do I hear any crickets?

The darkness of fear is running rampant in our lives. In many ways during the Biblical era of our text, the darkness of fear was also running rampant. There was not a pandemic to my knowledge, but there was fear. There was fear of religious and political oppression. There was the heavy burden of a conscious weighed down by unnecessary laws and regulations that had been tacked onto God’s law. There was the constant concern that you weren’t walking in line with what the leaders had mandated. Based upon conversations I have had, perhaps this is somewhat similar to the way we feel today.

It was into this world of the darkness of fear and trepidation that John the Baptist was sent. Clad in camel hair, dining on the delicacy of locusts and wild honey, he was sent with one mission in mind. He was sent to bear witness…to bear witness to the light. Where so much focus was on the darkness of the day, he came on the scene with a message of radical refreshment. 

Four hundred years had gone by since a prophet had walked the land. The silence from God had cast a dark shadow on the world as they waited with anticipation for this coming of Christ. But in waiting, the departure of God’s people from the Lord had only deepened. No longer did they wait in eager excitement for the coming of Christ. They needed someone to wake them up from their apathetic slumber.

So do we. How many of us have grown apathetic in our faith. Let me ask you this. As of late, where has your focus been? Are you focused on confessing your sins, or more focused on fear? Are you focused on God’s Word and Sacrament, or more focused on the political climate around you? Are you more focused on Christ’s second coming, or the pandemic?

See how the circumstances of the day suppress our focus from where it is meant to be. See how we miss out on the real reason for this season. See how Satan has taken a worldwide situation and driven us into the darkness of despair.

John the Baptist redirects our focus here today. Like a journey in a dark tunnel, he tells us to focus on the light…the light at the end of the tunnel. Though darkness abounds, the light wins the day. Pastor Lucas’ line still strikes a chord with me, “the Light always wins.”

Jesus always wins, no matter how dark the world may seem. The devil was defeated two thousand years ago on a cross outside of Jerusalem. Jesus has proclaimed His victory over Satan in hell. The image I have of that victory proclamation is Jesus doing a holy touchdown dance in hell. Jesus wins. Satan loses. Game over. It is finished.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, look where John is pointing. He is not pointing to the circumstances of this world. He is pointing to the One who came to save us. He is pointing to Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is our sole source of hope. He is the Light. He is our focus.

But that can be tough when we only focus on ourselves. Whenever fear abounds, we have a tendency only to think of me, myself, and I, that unholy trinity. We also have a tendency to isolate ourselves. That is one of the concerns of this pandemic. All of this isolation can be a feeding frenzy for the appetite of the devil when it comes to the dirty work he likes to do to get us down in the darkness of despair. 

John was tempted to only focus on himself as well. They questioned him again and again. Who are you? Are you Elijah? Are you the Prophet? Who are you? 

Like a barrage, all of these questions were temptations of Satan for John to say, “Yup! I am Elijah, I am the Prophet, I am the Light.” But to have done so would have only left John and those he was called to witness to in the dark.

That may be the way we feel to some degree, left in the dark. And yet a light at the end of this dark tunnel remains. That light doesn’t come in the political unrest halting. It doesn’t come in pandemics subsiding and health abounding. That light comes in the object of our faith who triumphs over our greatest fears. It is the Light of Christ. It is Jesus.

These may be hard days to focus, but all of us are encouraged to pay heed to John’s direction. Look to Jesus. He has not abandoned His post. He still sits upon His throne at the right hand of God the Father. He is not surprised by what’s going on in our world. He knew it was coming. He has not lost control. He continues to exercise His authority on our behalf and for our benefit. He doesn’t abandon us to the darkness. He is the Light, and He gives us everything we need so that we can make it through to life everlasting.

From His throne of grace and mercy, He shines His light into our lives. That light exposes our sins so that we may confess them in the confidence of His forgiveness. That light drowns out all of the darkness that would doom us to death and hell. That light shines brightly. That light is Jesus, and He has given you the faith you need which conquers your fears.

What’s more, that light shines brightly in you and through you. Don’t let your emotions or fears fool you. The Light of Christ cannot be extinguished…ever. I have always loved the phrase: “Be the moon, reflect the Son.” S-O-N. 

We all have a calling as Christians. We have the Light living in us. And now more than ever is a time for us to join with John and point to Jesus, the One who died, was buried, and rose for us. The light of Easter morning’s open tomb shines brightly and proclaims that there is indeed no reason to fear. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

The light always wins, my beloved brothers and sisters. There is no reason to fear, no matter the circumstances around us. Every need of body and soul will be provided. Our salvation has been secured…secured by our Savior. (Pause)

So, where is our focus these days? John tells us, “I baptize you with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27).

That One who stands among us here today is Jesus. He is the Light, and He welcomes us here to dine at His table, to feast on forgiveness, and then He sends us out to be a light in the darkness of this world.

I would like to close by leaving you with these words from the Gospel of Matthew as the Third Sunday in Advent’s focus is on joy, not on fear…that as we focus on the Light of Christ, may we fearlessly and joyfully reflect His light to others in the confidence of these words of our Savior: You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.