This weeks Gospel:
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.
This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, “I am not the Messiah.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’” as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, “Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.
Father Tom’s message this week:
“Who are you?” They asked John the Baptist. “Are you the Messiah?” “Are you a Prophet?” What do you say when people ask you who you are? Do you tell them that you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you afraid that your faith will be used against you if you admit that you follow Jesus?
I had been in law enforcement for only a couple of years when I was sent on a call regarding an unwanted male. A store owner had gone to throw some trash into a dumpster. As he lifted the lid he found a man sleeping inside on top of the trash bags. Imagine the surprise, the shock, of seeing a person where no person belongs. Imagine the fear both of them must have had. It was a cold outside and the man was just trying to find warmth and shelter from the cold.
I found him exactly where the store owner had found him, sleeping on top of the trash bags with the dumpster’s lid closed. In my most authoritative, most commanding voice I yelled, “Out of the dumpster!” He just ignored me. After a minute I repeated myself and he simply said, “No.” Expecting a fight, I called for another unit and waited before doing anything else.
My partner and I physically pulled the man out of the dumpster. Once on the ground I demanded his identification. The store owner standing nearby said, “He’s trespassing. I want him off my property.” I looked down at the man on the ground and again asked, “Where’s your ID?” He said, “I’m Jesus Christ. Who are you?” It was then that I saw the plastic rosary beads around his neck that are given out by many Catholic Churches. While I don’t remember what I said after that, I do know that I never told him that I was a Christian. Was it because I was afraid that my Christianity would be used against me in that instance? Was it because I felt uncomfortable because someone who was sleeping in a dumpster proclaimed to be Jesus Christ? Or was it because I am a Christian and I didn’t tell him?
I have encountered many individuals over a long career who proclaimed to be Jesus. Each person also had an earthly identity which I was usually able to find out about one way or another. When faced directly, such as I was, do you tell people that you are a Christian?
We as Christians can still have control over what we are willing to do and not do. Just because someone tries to use our Christianity against us does not mean that we have to give them all of our money or our possessions or food or shelter or … We still have free will and can make our own decisions. But like John said, “Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.”
As you prepare for this third Sunday in Advent realize that many are homeless or suffering because of many reasons. If you have the ability or calling to help someone else, now is a good time, either through a food program or one of the established charities our church and community supports.