Monday Reverb – 18December2023



  • We joyfully praise you, O Lord, for the fulfillment of your promise of a Savior and what that means in our lives.  Thank you for the gift of salvation through the birth of your Son, Jesus.  Create us anew as we wait … and help us see your glory as you fill our lives with your living Spirit.   
  • Amen.  


Yesterday was the third Sunday of Advent, and our theme for this week is called to share good news.

  • Our call to worship Psalm recalls God’s promises kept, and it asks for restoration again. (See Psalm 126:1-6)  
  • Isaiah 61 prophesies of Jesus’ anointing and role to “bring good news to the oppressed.” (See Isaiah 61:1-48-11)  
  • 1 Thessalonians offers wise practices for life and then reminds readers that it isn’t by our efforts, but that “The one who calls you is faithful…and will do this.” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24)   
  • Our sermon text from John 1 reminds us that we play an important part in proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world, and we’ll think about how we might accomplish that in our postmodern society.  (See John 1:6-8,19-23,24-28).  

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Advent – Joy

In the tender embrace of Advent, we find ourselves on the cusp of a wondrous journey.  Like the first light of dawn, joy begins to illuminate our hearts.

In Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, we hear the prophet’s voice, a herald of good news to the oppressed, a proclamation of liberty to the captives, and the promise of joy for those who mourn.

We witness the human experience, where joy and sorrow intermingle, where we long for a deeper sense of purpose and meaning.

Advent reminds us that joy is not a fleeting emotion, but a wellspring that flows from the heart of God, reaching out to touch our lives.

Isaiah’s words speak of transformation, of beauty rising from ashes, of joy blossoming in unexpected places.  It’s a promise of renewal and hope.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion — to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
Isaiah 61:1-3 (NRSVUE)

During this Advent season, let us open our hearts to the joy that comes from selfless giving, from being present for one another, from finding purpose in the service of others.

In this season of Advent, may joy be our guiding light, filling our hearts with hope and our spirits with praise.

Like stars in the night sky, may our joy shine brightly, a testament to the light that has come into the world.




Expert Witnesses

John 1:6-8,19-23,24-28 (NRSVUE)

Witnesses play a significant role in getting to the truth of any court case. But sometimes in the excitement of a trial, witnesses and lawyers can convey what they know in an unclear and funny way. Listen to these quoted examples:

Lawyer: “How old is your son, the one living with you?
Witness: “Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.”
Lawyer: “How long has he lived with you?”
Witness: “Forty-five years.”

Lawyer: “Now, Mrs. Johnson, how was your first marriage terminated?”
Witness: “By death.”
Lawyer: “And by whose death was it terminated?”

Lawyer: “What is your date of birth?”
Witness: “July 15th.”
Lawyer: “What year?”
Witness: “Every year.”

Lawyer: “What gear were you in at the moment of impact?”
Witness: “Gucci sweats and Reeboks.”

Lawyer: “Can you describe what the person who attacked you looked like?”
Witness: “No. He was wearing a mask.”
Lawyer: “What was he wearing under the mask?”
Witness: “Er…his face.”

Lawyer: “What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke that morning?”
Witness: “He said, ‘Where am I, Cathy?’”
lawyer: “And why did that upset you?”
Witness: “My name is Susan.”

As we can see from these humorous examples, witnesses can sometimes offer an unclear description of what they know to be true, leaving those they’re trying to convince in the dark.  Our sermon text today has a lot to say about witnessing and light and why we’re called to share the Good News of the Incarnation.  Let’s read John 1:6-8, 19-28. [Read sermon text.]

Important keywords of John’s gospel and the context for John 1:6-8,19-28

Barclay’s Commentary points out that “life and light are two of the great basic words on which the Fourth Gospel is built.”  In the context of our assigned sermon text, we read this from John 1:1-5, noticing how light and life are linked:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.  What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overtake it. (John 1:1-5, NRSVUE)

Another key word in John’s gospel is “darkness,” which appears seven times.  At times, this darkness seems to refer to evil deeds that are often hidden, but some passages indicate that this could include a willful ignorance.  John also uses the idea of dark and darkness to convey a feeling of uncertainty, such as when the disciples had taken their boat across the lake without Jesus in John 6:16-17:

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.  It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. (John 6:17, NRSVUE)

In this passage, the sea became rough, and the disciples were afraid.  When they saw Jesus walking on the water toward them, they were terrified until he spoke to reassure them of his presence.  Another example where dark or darkness conveys uncertainty and fear includes John 20:1 where Mary Magdalene came to the tomb on the first day of the week.  John’s use of contrast with the concepts of darkness vs. light and life helps us understand what Jesus’ impact on human beings can be.

Another key word of John’s gospel is “witness,” and throughout his gospel, John offers eight examples of a witness to Jesus as the Son of God:

  1. The witness of the Father (John 5:37)
  2. The witness of Jesus himself (John 8:18)
  3. The witness of Jesus’ works (John 5:36)
  4. The witness of scriptures about Jesus (John 5:39)
  5. The witness of John the Baptist (John 1:7-8)
  6. The witness of those who interacted with Jesus (John 4:39, 9:25, 12:17)
  7. The witness of Jesus’ disciples (John 15:27)
  8. The witness of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26,)

John’s witness (John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Our sermon text begins with John the Baptist, who was “a witness to testify to the light” (John 1:8).  As the passage moves forward, we see that priests and Levites were interrogating John to figure out who he was (John 1:19).  The typical orthodoxy was a little suspicious of John.  By his lineage, he was a priest, but he did not behave as priests and Levites were expected to behave, and then add his clothing of camel’s hair and strange diet, and people weren’t sure what to think.  They thought John could be the Messiah (John 1:20), Elijah (John 1:21), or a promised prophet brought back to life, such as Isaiah or Jeremiah (John 1:21), but John denied all of these.  Instead, he hearkened back to the prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:3:

 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3, NRSVUE)

John wanted to make clear that he was someone directing people to Jesus, encouraging them to be aware and watchful.  John was the moon reflecting the sun, in this case, the Son of God.  Jesus said, “I am.”  John said, “I am not.”  John was a voice in the wilderness preparing people, identifying himself by saying who he was in connection with Jesus by pointing out who and what he was not.

From there, the Pharisees wanted to know why he was baptizing if he wasn’t the Messiah, Elijah, or a promised prophet. If John had been one of these three, there might have been scriptural precedent for baptism, such as Isaiah 52:15, Ezekiel 36:25 and Zechariah 13:1.  Baptism, however, was for converts to the Jewish faith, not for Israelites who understood their need.  By baptizing Jews, John was implying that to prepare for the coming Messiah, even Jews needed to be cleansed to be ready, despite their law keeping efforts.

Homiletics Professor and Political Theologian Jan Schnell Rippentrop summarizes John’s answers this way:

  • John explains who he is not (John 1:19-22).
  • John references a familiar Hebrew text that tells something about his vocation (John 1:23).
  • John acknowledges his limitations (i.e., his water baptism vs. the One coming who is more worthy – John 1:26-27).

Why our witness is important

Sometimes witnessing in today’s world is called “giving your testimony,” or sharing your story about how God has been involved in your life.  Stories are an effective way to educate and inspire others because they communicate what’s important to us through emotions.  They connect with the listeners’ hearts, and that’s where transformation occurs.

Rippentrop suggests that we can use these three methods as we witness for Jesus:

  • “I am not [fill in the blank].”
  • “This scripture will tell you something about what I do: [fill in scripture].”
  • “If you really want to know what I’m about, you’d have to know that I do this: [fill in the blank].”

Harvard professor Marshall Ganz developed a framework for these impactful stories: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.  Rippentrop contextualizes the framework for Christians like this:

  • The story of self:  What God has done with me / How I have known God?
  • The story of us:  What God does with us / How we have known God?
  • The story of nowWhat God is up to now?

As we continue through Advent, today’s sermon text offers the opportunity for us to consider our own stories as witnesses of the Incarnation’s outcomes and preparation for the Second Coming.  We are called to share the good news of Jesus, the Light and Life of the world.  As the familiar carol encourages us, we’re to “go, tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere.  Go, tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born.”  We are expert witnesses who can testify of God’s loving kindness to those with whom we have a relationship as well as those who might ask about the hope we rely upon to live.

Call to Action: This week, think about your testimony, and if it would be a story of self, us, or now as defined by Ganz’s framework.  Consider how your witness in the form of story might encourage someone you know well, and if it seems appropriate and timely, share your story.



1.  From Home Office’s perspective …

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • The opening remarks show how witnessing can be misconstrued and misinterpreted. We’re human, after all.
  • How can we make sure our communication is clear and appropriate for the setting when we decide to share our testimony?
  • In other words, how can we know it’s the right time to share our testimony?
  • How can we make sure our message connects with the heart in a thoughtful way?
  • John’s gospel uses the keyword “witness” to establish Jesus as the Son of God by setting up various witnesses, such as the witness of the Father, the witness of Jesus himself, the witness of Jesus’ works, etc.
  • Why do you think that the theme of witness is an important one in John’s gospel?
  • How do you see the other important keywords (i.e., light, life, and darkness) connected with the idea of witnessing for Jesus as the Son of God?
  • Our theme for this week is “Called to Share the Good News,” and the sermon offers ideas for shaping your story of God’s involvement in your life.
  • Can you share your brief story of self, your story of us, or your story of now that conveys the emotions you’ve experienced from your relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?


John 1:19-28  NKJV  

19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”   

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”  

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?”  

He said, “I am not.”   

“Are you the Prophet?”  

And he answered, “No.”  

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us?  What do you say about yourself?”  

23 He said: “am  ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  

26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know.  27 It is He who, coming after me, [a]is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”   

28 These things were done in [b]Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.   



What is the theme for this week … and … this study?

  • Theme:  called to share good news

What was John’s mission?

  • to be a witness … and … to bear witness (John 1:7)

Is there a difference between “being a witness” and “bearing witness”?

  • To be a witness … is to see something
  • To bear witness … is to tell something
  • Notice John 1:34 and John 1:36

How do you think that is relevant to us today?  does that apply to us today?   (Hint: See Acts 1:1-8)

  • Consider Acts 1:4-8
  • 4 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father,  “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be [c]witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
  • Read Acts 1:8 again very slowly.   
  • What is noteworthy?

Do you see any similarity between what the disciples were to do and what John did?

  • The disciples, like John before them, were to be witnesses.  (Cf. John 1:8 and Acts 1:8)

What is one thing that we should take away?

  • The disciples were to be witnesses for Christ.
  • By extension, Church members are to be witnesses for Christ.


Sequel to part of last Friday’s study … re: baptism with the Holy Spirit

Do you see a link between Acts 1:5 and Acts 1:8?

  • be baptized with the Holy Spirit = receive power

Do you see a link between Acts 1:5 and Acts 2:1-4?

  • It seems that’s when the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit.

If that was when they were baptized with the Holy Spirit, then what would you say baptism with the Holy Spirit is?  In other words, what do you think happens when a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit?

  • When a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit seems to be when …
      • that person receives the Holy Spirit as an indwelling Presence
      • that person receives his/her spiritual gift(s) … such as, but not necessarily, the ability to speak in tongues


29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who [k]is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ 31 I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”    

32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him.  33 I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”  

35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. 36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, Behold the Lamb of God!  



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