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Spiritual Growth

Third Sunday in Advent: Hearing & Listening

By Linda Douglas Smith

Scripture: John 1:6-8, 19-28
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.

Reflection: Hearing and Listening

Are you hearing and listening to the testimony of John the Baptist?

These Scripture passages tell of John the Baptist, a man sent from God – God’s messenger – to announce the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. John’s mission was to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah.

John was the one the prophet Isaiah spoke of as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” telling the people to get ready for the coming of Jesus. John’s message to the people was that Jesus would be greater and mightier than he, and he was not worthy to loosen the straps or even carry the sandals of the Lord.

Are you hearing and listening to the testimony of John the Baptist?

John traveled through the country surrounding the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Crowds of people came confessing their sins and John baptized them in the Jordan River and he told them they must live right.

John the Baptist was asked by many groups of people what they should do. Scripture tells us his answer, Luke 3:11-14 says, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”

Are you hearing and listening to the testimony of John the Baptist?

If John the Baptist shows up at your Sunday morning worship service, dressed in clothes made of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, would you listen to his testimony? After service, John asks, “Do you have any locust and wild honey?” How would you respond?

Even when people did not want to hear it, John the Baptist always spoke the truth. He boldly confronted King Herod about the evil things he had done. Ultimately, this stand for the truth cost John his life.

One of the things John urged the people to do was to share food with anyone who had none. The Food Bank for New York City reports that each year, more than 1.3 million New Yorkers, neighbors in my home state, rely on food banks to put food on their tables. Consider these statistics from the nonprofit organization, Bread for the World:

• An estimated 923 million people in the world go hungry.
• In developing countries nearly 16 million children die every year from preventable and treatable causes. Sixty percent of these deaths are from hunger and malnutrition.
• In the United States, 11.7 million children live in households where people have to skip meals or eat less to make ends meet. That means one in 10 households in the United States are living with hunger or are at risk of hunger.

John's purpose was to prepare the people to accept Jesus. Could you help someone to accept Jesus Christ?

John told the people to be generous with the things they owned. Do you have something you could share? Do you have food or clothing that you could give to someone in need? Think about what it means to live right.

Are you ready for Advent Two?

Hymn: “Take My Life and Let It Be,” No. 399, The United Methodist Hymnal
Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is thine own; it shall be thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee.

Lord, we praise and thank you for coming to Earth so long ago. We praise you for the example of John the Baptist, for his willingness to do what you asked him to do. Forgive us for flimsy dedication, puny consecration and selfish ways. Help each of us to say here today, “Yes, Lord.” May our hearts and the hearts of those around us be truly prepared for Advent Two. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen. (Adapted from “Christmas: Bells & Blessings” by Hazel Jaycox Brown.)

*Linda Douglas Smith, Deaconess, Executive Secretary for Administration for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Global Ministries

Last Updated: 04/10/2010

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