On Christmas Eve I had an embarrassing accident following our first worship service. When blowing out one of the advent candles on the altar, I blew hard enough that a pool of hot purple wax splattered back onto my white pastor’s robe and the handwoven white stole I wear around my neck. With three more Christmas services yet to go, I did not know what I would do. Fortunately my stole is reversible. I decided to flip it over and nobody knew the difference.... except me. Now I am looking for the best way to get the wax stains out. If you have a solution, let me (or my loving wife) know!
At the time of Jesus’ birth, people were also in need of a stain remover. Like the owner of a laundromat, the prophet Isaiah had been calling people to cleanse themselves of the sin that had stained the people of God: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)
Likewise, when Jesus began his public ministry as a “thirty-something” adult , a prophet named John the Baptist pointed to Jesus, declaring: “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”(John 1:29)
As a result, some of John the Baptist’s followers immediately left him to follow Jesus. Soon they were joined by fishermen named Peter, Andrew, James and John left their their nets and boats when Jesus called them to follow. Eventually a man named Nathanael, who harbored a deep prejudice against people from Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, received a gracious invitation to “come and see.” So he did. Nathanael got up to follow the one with the power to remove the sin of prejudice that was leaving stains in his life.
We live in a time when hatred, bigotry, racism and fear are leaving ugly stains on our hearts, community, nation and world. The words of the prophet Isaiah and the good news of Jesus and his saving love are truths that need to be heard, received and lived by all who hear his gracious invitation to follow him. On Monday our nation will celebrate the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who boldly proclaimed the justice of God which is blind to color, class or any human-made categories. Rev. King believed in Jesus’ power to remove the sin of hate, racism and prejudice. Rev. King witnessed to Jesus by preaching the good news of Jesus’ love and mercy for all people.
In this new year it is my prayer that God’s saving love may empower people of all races, religions, classes and stations in life to put aside our differences and join in a spirit of togetherness for the healing of our nation. Happy New Year!