A devotion for the third week of Advent, December 13-19, 2020.
Read the rest of our 2020 Advent devotions.
Read: John 1:6-8, 19-28
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Do you know that disappointment when you unpack a lovingly wrapped Christmas present that isn’t at all what you hoped for? We often rate the content on the basis of the packaging. John the Baptist was such a "present." He called himself “trailblazer of Jesus” telling people about God and the coming Messiah. Some then changed their lives and were baptized, others dismissed him as a crank.
We too would probably have labeled him that. I know people who say: ‘I don't want to have anything to do with God because I've had negative experiences with the church.’ They are confusing packaging and content.
John the Baptist wants to help us take a new, different perspective.
He prepared the way—he was not Christ.
The church should prepare the way—she is not Christ.
The prejudices you may have against the church because of negative experiences—they are not Christ.
The people who spread the gospel, who came to this world for you and for me—they are not Christ.
Nothing and no one in this world can presume to claim to be Christ. Only the Son of God, whose incarnation we celebrate at Christmas, is Christ.
I invite you during this Advent season to approach people like John the Baptist. Knowing we are not Christ. We may be weird and imperfect, but we have the best message in the world. With Christmas, someone comes who meets the suffering of people with compassion, who lives generosity, and who teaches us how God really is.
So let's not focus on people and churches but rather on the one who revealed God in human form: The child in the manger, Jesus Christ. John points to him.
Prayer: Remind me, O God, to not mistake the wrapping for the gift. Teach me to share the best message in the world every day. Amen.
Activity: Wrap a present that "irritates." For example: Socks in smartphone packaging. Give it away and get in touch with the person about the content and packaging.
*The Rev. Bernd Schwenkschuster is pastor of h3-Metzingen (known as the Climbing Church), a United Methodist congregation in Metzingen, Germany. Media contact is Joe Iovino.
This devotion was published on December 11, 2020.