The Gospel is like a diamond, which reflects the light differently depending on how you look at it. There are four gospels in the New Testament, with four Gospel writers. Each writer tells the story of Jesus in a different way. Matthew describes Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of the Hebrew Scriptures. Mark sees the crucifixion as the most important event in history. Luke shows us a more human Jesus, born in the same way we are born and living and dying like one of us. John, whose Gospel we heard today, sees in Jesus that God is at work in the world. For John, Jesus is the word of God in human form; Jesus is the light of God coming into the world.
In the reading John the Gospel writer makes that very clear.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” We call him John the Baptist or John the Baptiser, but St John the Evangelist calls him, “The John who was sent by God”
And this John was sent by God for a reason. According to the Evangelist, God sent John to bear witness to the light, so that all might believe through him. Listen to what the Evangelist says, “John was not the light, but he came to testify, to bear witness to the light.” End of paragraph.
Then the Evangelist tells us what the testimony is. He tells us what John said when the Jews sent Priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
John’s answer is that he is not the Messiah, he is not the prophet Elijah, nor is he any other prophet. The Priests and Levites don’t want to know who John is not, so they demand an answer, “What do you say about yourself?”
And John tells them what we already know, John is a messenger, a fore runner. “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the Prophet Isaiah said.” St Mark, in his gospel which we heard last week, describes John the Baptiser as a messenger and the one who cries out in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” The way St Mark tells it, we are to prepare ourselves for the Good News, the Gospel and we are to make a straight path in our hearts so that we can be baptised with the Holy Spirit.
The way St John tells it we must be ready for the light of God which is coming into the world. Jesus is the light of the world, says St John, a light which will drive away every trace of darkness. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. In the old King James Version it says, that the darkness did not “comprehend” the light. The darkness couldn’t understand the light and the darkness could not put the light out. This is the true light, which gives light to everyone, coming into the world.
And this light reveals everything. In the light of Christ, nothing remains hidden. The secret places of the world, the secret places of our hearts are filled with light and God shows us exactly what those secrets are. Some secrets are shameful and disgusting, but other secrets are bright and wonderful, only needing the light to bring them to life. The light of Christ will burn away all that is evil and wrong, but everything that is righteous and good will shoot up like a fountain of new life.
The message of the John sent by God as reported by St John the Evangelist is for us to get ready for the light by putting away the works of darkness and making room for the good things to grow.
Isaiah the Prophet, although he was speaking five hundred years before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is also speaking as if he was a messenger for God.
Listen, says Isaiah, The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because God has sent me to bring good news, gospel to the oppressed, the broken-hearted, the captives and the prisoners. Throw away your ashes and put flowers in your hair, wipe the oil from your faces and sprinkle perfume instead, don’t go creeping around in the corners, put on your best clothes and dance and sing to the Lord.
Isaiah is telling the people to be ready to praise the Lord God, who is their God, just as they are God’s people. And Isaiah give himself as an example. He says, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom puts a garland of flowers round his neck, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sone in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all nations.
Today I am telling you what the Lord God told Isaiah to say; I am reminding you of what John the Baptist said. Today is not a time to be miserable, it is a time to rejoice, for God is coming to you to save you and to bring you joy.
God has given us salvation through Jesus Christ, and God will make us new in Christ so that we will be perfect at the coming of the Lord. What Isaiah and John who was sent by God are saying is, “Be prepared for your salvation, be ready to meet God. You need to be willing to change, to turn from doing stupid and evil things. God is bringing hope and peace and joy to give to us freely. God offers robes of righteousness, garments of salvation, garlands of hope and jewels of faith.
This is the light which is coming into the world, the light which John the Baptist announced, the light which will shine in our darkness and make our lives bright with joy.
Let us pray that we may be ready to step out of darkness into light and meet Christ in the glory of the holy angels..