The recent release of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” was heralded by trailers, actor interviews, airport events and press releases. Unless you were living off the grid, you knew the movie was coming. When any major event is about to take place, publicity agents make sure it will not go unnoticed. Several months in advance they begin sounding the trumpet to herald the arrival of their “baby,” their project. Their job is to make sure we know the event is coming. Whether or not we attend is entirely up to us.
The arrival of baby Jesus was not unannounced or unexpected. The prophets of the Old Testament had long predicted his coming…he who would offer salvation and eternal peace to the nation of Israel and the whole world. John the Baptist, as a contemporary of Jesus, was the last prophet to announce his coming, and even John was foretold by the prophet Isaiah: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way—a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’” (Isaiah 40:3; Mark 1:2-3). John knew his place relative to the Messiah he announced, saying that he would not be worthy to untie his sandals. Whether people accepted the message or not was not about John. Rather, it was about Jesus, whom he foretold. To reject the announcement was to reject Jesus, not John the messenger.
The presence and purpose of Jesus is hardly a secret in the world today. He is not unannounced or unexpected. We have many witnesses to him—the record of his life and ministry found in scripture, the sacrificial lives of the apostles and martyrs who knew him personally and were willing to die for the truth of his message, millions of lives changed by the work of his Spirit in and through ordinary broken people—yet not all accept him. We who believe in him and trust him for our now and future redemption are also called to be his witnesses. While we are not all given the gift of evangelist, we are all given the charge to evangelize.
Jesus taught his followers to be light in a dark world where it is easy to get lost. The witness of most believers is not preaching to those around us rather, it is the way we do life. The work of the Holy Spirit enables us to love in ways that we could not otherwise (persevering, forgiving, hoping, believing the best, never giving up…). These are often stronger witnesses than dramatic gifts or eloquent words. He spoke to the inevitability of our witness in his usual clear and simple language—no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, the purpose of the lamp is to spread light to the entire room. As his followers, we are the lamp intended to light the rooms of life we inhabit.
Please accept this reminder that there is never a time when we are not to be that light for others. There is no encounter—even a non-verbal one—that does not count for the Kingdom. The woman who holds up the line in the department store, the man who cuts you off in traffic, the difficult person in the workplace, all are in need of his light—an unexpected response from us that stops them in their tracks. It is not us people accept or reject—the gospel is not about us—but Jesus, the one we are witnesses to.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:4