Introduction and About the Text
Most people like to talk about themselves, whether they admit it or not. There’s something ingrained about us that likes to hear our own voice and opinions. You know this? When someone is talking about something, you’re planning what you’re going to say.
Part of this is a fear that we won’t get our say, and that matters to us, because, after all, “I am the most important person in the world,” we think. To this fear, our Lord gives us freedom. Freedom to decrease, so that He might increase. That is what John the Baptist once proclaimed of himself, He must increase, and I must decrease (John 3:30).
Our text shows John being given a wonderful opportunity to talk about himself. 19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He could have said, I’m one of the guys the Old Testament prophesied of. You remember when that eighty year old woman got pregnant after being barren all her life? You remember when that priest who spoke all his life was muted until his wife gave birth and then all of the sudden he could talk? You remember that preacher who was so eloquent, condemning and comforting that all of Judea came out to hear him and be baptized by him? This was a wonderful time for John to talk about John. This is a wonderful opportunity for John to say, “Let’s talk about me for a little and then we’ll have a time for you to talk about me for a little bit.” And yet, 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” After more questions (vs. 21-22), and more answers that are short and indicate that John isn’t there to talk about John, he does say who he is, 23 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.”
For our Repentance
John thinks of himself of having only a big voice that talks about someone else and a big finger that points to someone else. Dear saints, do not be afraid to decrease, so that Jesus can increase. Do not be afraid to think less of yourself, and think more about Jesus and who are you in Him. Thinking about self and pleasure is what drives our culture, our society, and too often, each one of us. The irony is that this selfishness is the very thing that keeps us from being satisfied and content in our lives.
This isn’t a call to be depressed about yourself and in fact, when I’m down on myself, I find that I’m thinking about me more than anyone else. It is rather a call to deny your sinful flesh and desires; for your opinions and thoughts to take a backseat to God’s will and Word; to swallow your anger; to stop swallowing so much food; to consider others in prayer; to confess your faith to those who might make fun of your confession; to hear more about what God thinks about you and others than what you think about you and others; to give of your money and gifts and trust God’s provision; to have big ears in hearing others; a big mouth in confessing your sin and Christ’s forgiveness and a big finger in pointing out, Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 3:36).
That is scary. Because we think that if we decrease, we’re not going to be heard, our anger is not going to be felt and we won’t have as much pleasure in eating, drinking, sleeping and other bed activities. That is a lie.
For Our Comfort
We are not the light, we bear witness to the Light. We are not the Christ, we confess that Jesus is the Christ and that He stands among us, present right now. He who we are not worthy to be in the presence of; He who we shouldn’t even be able to do the most menial and low task of untying His sandals; the One who’s infinitely greater than we are, because he was before us all, for we are surely, each one, the work of his hands, even as we are also, each one, the creatures of his own redeeming. He came among us as one of us precisely so that could serve all of us. He shouldered our sins as he carried his cross, and he died our death and shattered our hell, and by overcoming the sharpness of death he opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. Truly, the Son of Man did not come among us to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as the ransom for many, indeed, for all.
Before we greet him in the manger on Thursday, let’s again welcome him as he comes to us at his Table, bearing the only Christmas gifts that any of us need, gifts that none of us can live without. Your life is hidden with Christ. You are covered from head to toe with his righteousness. You are already dead to the world, dead to sin, dead to death. Your life is safely hidden in Christ, tucked away where no one can take it. You’ve got nothing to lose. We decrease, so that He increases. We become less, so that He can become more. We talk less about ourselves, and more about Jesus and who we are in Him. With this Jesus, there is more – more peace, more strength during the hard times, more joy, more love. Amen.