Advent is the season to learn about the coming of the Christ. But it is also the season to learn what it means not to be the Christ. That is what John the Baptist teaches us in todays Gospel.
John the Baptist is not the Christ. He is a witness to the light of the world that gives life to the world. He is a witness to the one who is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the witness of Him who would baptize with the Holy Spirit. John is not that one. John is simple the one who bears witness to that one.
John is more emphatic about who he isn't than who he is. He is not the Christ. He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, that he is not the Christ. In fact, John must decrease so that the Christ will increase. John must receded into the background, John must get out of the way, so that the light come into the world, the light that shines in the darkness can shine its light to give life to those who are perishing.
John is not the Christ. He bears witness to the Christ. He points everyone who looks to him away from him to the Christ. He is there to say it is not about me. It is about Him. It is about Jesus the Christ, the light of the world, the life of the world, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Do not look at me. Look to Him. Do not follow me. Follow Him. Do not trust in me. Trust in Him.
John is not the Christ. He only bears witness to the Christ. But that means, in the end, that there is a Christ. There is one who comes to shine His light in the darkness so that all will have life. That means that there is a Lamb of God who comes to take a way the sin of the world. That means that there is one who will baptize not just with water but also with the Holy Spirit.
John is not the Christ. I am not the Christ. You are not the Christ. We cannot save the world. We cannot answer life's deepest questions. We cannot offer perfect solutions to the world's greatest and most perplexing problems. We have not leaders or political agendas that will create the ideal society, the ideal church, the ideal family. We are not the Christ.
And ye we are not paralyzed. We are not silent, without anything to say. For while we are not the Christ, there is a Christ, our Lord Jesus. We have something to say. We have something to point to. He must increase and we must decrease. He is the light of the world, the light that shines in the darkness, the light that gives life. He is the one who dies as the lamb of God who takes away sin. He is the one who is the resurrection and the life. He is the Bread of Life come down to feed and nourish us. He is the Way and the Truth. He is the one who baptizes with water and the Holy Spirit, the one who leaves us not alone but gives us the Comforter. He is our Advocate, who pleads our cause and sends the devil and all his minions away. He is the one who heals the sick, makes whole the broken, who feeds the hungry, who fills the empty, who finds and saves the lost. Jesus is the Christ.
Let us then confess, and not deny, but confess, that we are not the Christ. But there is a Christ: Jesus the crucified but risen. And though He be hidden, though He is not seen, though we are not worth to untie His sandals, He is also the one who is among us, under bread and wine, to bring us light and life, to make us decrease so that He will increase, to make us living witnesses, proclaiming His death that gives life until He comes again.
We are not the Christ. But there is a Christ. And He is come. Thanks be to God!