Friday, 15 December 2017

Advent 3:‘Now this was John’s testimony when [they asked] him who he was.’: Tim Mountain

John 1:6-8; 19-28

Over the past few years I’ve often found myself saying that one of the more important questions to ask of oneself is: ‘who am I?’ Perhaps it’s a sign of advancing age! When David Runcorn ponders this question in one of his books he notes that “the answer to the question ‘who am I?’ is a complex one. The problem is not where to start but where to stop!” The answer is an unfolding journey of discovery; it is perhaps more a matter of ‘who am I becoming?’ rather than trying to nail down our identity once and for all. For disciples of Jesus, an essential element to discovering and shaping our identity is the work of the Holy Spirit in and with us, transforming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ; and John writes that “what we will be has not yet been made known ... but we shall be like him”(1 John 3:2).

John the Baptist’s identity and his answers to his interrogators are at first couched in negative terms – who he is not. He is not the light of the world; he is not a prophet of old re-emergent for such a time as this; he is not the Christ, the anticipated deliverer of Israel.
But positively, John has come to a realisation of, at least in part, who he is and what he is called to do. He is a witness to the light. He is a herald, the Voice – not of the TV talent show but that imaged in Isaiah, drawing attention to the coming Lord. He is a baptiser.
And John is becoming too. He knows that he will decrease in terms of importance and prominence as Another assumes centre stage.

I wonder how you would answer the question ‘who am I?’ Perhaps you might start with who you are not. This in itself can be a source of assurance and contentment – for example, your ministry is not my ministry so we are not in competition with one another. Perhaps you might think in terms of your self-understanding thus far – prayerfully, you might try to finish the sentence, ‘I am …’ – and not just in terms of job or vocation, but in relation to your emotions and desires too. And perhaps you might want to think about what you are becoming – for example, as you move through different phases in life what might you have to let go, what you might have to take on?

‘Who are you?’ Perhaps we might let God’s Spirit help us to dwell prayerfully with this question for a while during Advent. And as we uncover something of an answer, may it lead us into service for the greater glory of God.

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