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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, December 22, 2019  

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 1:19–28

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. (NRSV)

I find myself focusing on the emphatic way John told his questioners who he was not, versus who he was. John understood his mission was to bear witness to Jesus’ identity, not his own. He was the first person to recognize and proclaim Jesus as the Son of God. John knew that it was not about himself or who he was. Instead, he was “the Voice,” heralding good news of One far more significant than himself.

As Christmas season approaches, I think about missions much greater than I. My mom lovingly raising my brother and me by herself, on a mission she believed was greater than herself. At times, Mom worked two jobs, so that Mike and I never went hungry, unlike some of my friends in my South Side Chicago neighborhood. Our Christmases were filled with joy, despite our scarcity.

Mom never remarried. Remarrying may have made life easier for her. You see, it was all about the mission, which she believed was more important than “easiness” for herself. Mom allowed herself (her person) to diminish, so that Mike and I could be increased.

I often have that joyful feeling working with our church, offering food to those in need, when I pray for others, and when I focus on concerns of others, rather than myself. Sometimes, I don’t get this exactly right. I know I am a work in progress. Selflessness is my main takeaway from these Advent verses. I believe this is the true meaning of the season.

Lord, grant me humility. Help me, your work in progress, to be a person committed to the concerns of others. Create in me clarity of thought and heart to be a “voice,” like John, preparing for the advent of Christ. Amen.

Written by Ken Gaines, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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