Wishing We Could Do More at Christmas
by John Paul Carter
The very first baby born in the Christmas story is John, Jesus’ cousin(Luke 1). He grew up to become John the Baptizer, whose mission was to prepare people for the coming of the Christ. In the Fourth Gospel, where there is no nativity story, John appears early-on as God’s messenger telling his audiences about the Light that was about to shine in their darkness.
The gospel writer is very clear that John was not that Light that was coming into the world. And later when John himself was asked, Who are you? he answered with a series of nots – emphatically insisting that he was neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet. He identified himself simply as a voice crying in the wilderness.
Kayla McClurg of the Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C., points out that “What we know about who we are is aided by knowing who we are not. In our current darkness, as much as we might wish it were otherwise, we, like John, are not the Light. We are not able to be all that our hurting world needs.”
However, the Gospel’s assertion that John himself was not the Light is only the first half of a compound sentence (John 1:8). It quickly goes on to say just as emphatically that he came to testify to the Light.McClurg writes, “Lest we be tempted to make our permanent home in who we are not, in the cramped space of low expectations and limited responsibility, the second half of the sentence clarifies the first. It calls us out of the shadows and gives us our own significant part to play.”
We are not the Light, but we are called to share our truth about the Light that shines in our own darkness. That Light shines even brighter when we are simply ourselves – owning our own strengths and weaknesses - doing what we can.
This is especially good news at this season of the year when there are so many needs to be met, overwhelming demands, and great expectations. Most of us know what it is to wish that we could do more. However, if we attempt to be the Light, exhaustion and guilt will rob us of the joy of Christmas. Like John, we are only called upon to bear witness to the Light by being ourselves and, together, doing small things with great love. It’s the best gift we can give.