Sermon - 12/21/17

December 25, 2017


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, fl


light within

advent iii - Year B

17 december 2017


The Rev. Jon Roberts

If the light is not in you, how therefore will you know the way?[1]


A preacher, arriving in a small town to be guest speaker at a local church, wanted to mail a letter to his family back home. He stopped a young boy on a bike and asked him where the post office was. The boy gave him directions, and the preacher thanked him.

"If you come to church this evening," the preacher said, "I’ll tell you how to get to heaven."

"I don’t think I’ll be there," the boy said. "You don’t even know your way to the post office."[2]


There is an important message that needs to be delivered today.

If the light is not in you, how will you know the way?

There is a bit of irony to this season.

Preparing to tell the good news of Christmas, how many, we must wonder, don’t even know how to find the post office.

They have bought their trees and placed the ornaments.

They are busily going from one retailer to the next buying gifts.

They may even be so bold to plan to attend church, perhaps their only visit of the year.

Yet, most everyone is in tune to anticipate something new.

So many will come.

That is perhaps why the candlelight service, as we sing “Silent Night” is so popular. There is something mystical and transformative when light enters the church and we hear the message of salvation. Everyone wants to go to heaven.

Through a child being born, somehow the message is articulated.

But wait, there’s more, says the preacher.

There is something to be said about the messenger.

If the one who conveys this message is lost, how would anyone wish to follow?

If the light is not within the messenger, how does God’s Word go forth?

Today we hear, “There is one who comes in whom we are not worthy so much as to untie the thong of his sandal.”[3]

What a humble gesture of one who does not even consider themselves to be worthy of being a hired servant or a slave, stoop down and remove a dirty shoe.

John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel says just that.

He is not worthy.

John had credibility. He knew where to find the post office and thousands came out to hear him preach in the wilderness.

It is most important for the messenger to be credible as one who knows the way.

A funny and true story, for anyone considering to be on the Vestry next year, take to heart what I’m about to share.

Last Monday we were wrapping up the meeting and one of the members announced that the Christmas shoe boxes were to be delivered to Dayspring, our Diocesan conference center in Ellenton. There were several supplies to be delivered and they knew that I was going down for a conference the next day. It was an earnest request, to which we all broke in hysterical laughter.

She said, “Father, if you’re going down to Dayspring tomorrow would you please take two or three boxes which are full of thongs?” Apparently, another name for a sandal or a “flip-flop.”

At that moment I believed my credibility would be shot if I didn’t seek the light on this subject. “Of course,” I said, “but I do feel unworthy even to untie the thong of such sandals.”


Light radiates within us.

The message of salvation does not rely exclusively on the ornate. A tree without ornaments is still something majestic.

A gift without a bow is still loving.

A church without walls is still a place of worship.

But without the light within, they mean nothing and the messenger who tries to deliver, is lost.

But Oh how great and powerful that the ordinary is made extraordinary through ornaments and colorful bows and stained glass and pews and altar, with people singing the chorus in light!

This is what the world wants to follow.

The problem is that we fail to see that God has called us to be messengers, deliverers of His light.

John baptized in the wilderness to get away from the distortion of God’s truth in the temple. The message of salvation was unobtainable and light had moved to darkness.

You think our attendance has dropped in most US mainline protestant churches today? Imagine all the people who lost hope in the teachings of the church in Jesus’ day. The political maneuvering, the corruption of finances, the jockeying for power, was a self-seeking religion to those in power. It was far from the truth. John knew that religion most well. Remember his father was a priest. That made him a, “PK.” He knew when preachers got lost.

That is why he turned to the wilderness. It was part of his own means of salvation. It was a pure understanding of God’s will as he went where there were fewer distractions. There, he could be a true messenger and not have his light extinguished.

That is where he received the grace through humility.

“I am not worthy even to untie the thong of his sandal.”

St. Augustine of Hippo gave stern warning to those who chose to be “light bearers.” He said, of all the messengers, there was one who was before Abraham, before Adam, who was an Angel, “who did arise in the morning, but fell before night.”[4] The name “Lucifer” means just that, “Light-bearer.” It is the torch we use to bring light to the altar each Sunday.

If we are to be messengers of the truth and in succession of the fallen, where is our salvation? Are we not all prone to fall?

There is more to being enlightened. There is the calling to keep the light within you. Do not let it be extinguished so easily in sin.

Do not allow yourself to forget your way to where to find grace, mercy and compassion. Coming to Church, reading God’s Word, confessing your sins, ascribing what you believe, praying for others, receiving the body and blood of Jesus, being a light-bearer.

This is your wilderness. This is where your unworthiness meets God’s forgiveness. And always remember,…

“If the light is not within you, how therefore will you know the way?”




[1]The Rev. Jon Roberts




[3] John 1:6-8, 19-28


[4] Schultze, Manfred, “Martin Luther and the Church Fathers”, p. 37.

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