We all know how it feels to lose your voice. One morning you awaken with that little tickle in your throat. Somehow that cup of tea or a sip of water during the day just doesn’t take care of it. You find yourself clearing your throat and giving a little cough now and then, but somewhere in the back of your mind you know you’re in for it. Perhaps it will just be sniffles but that persistent tickle tells you that your throat is in for it and at the worst you will lose your voice.
Losing one’s voice is at least an inconvenience, and it forces a person to fully appreciate the most basic form of communication, perhaps that most ancient of gifts that made cultured humanity possible. But for a preacher, losing one’s voice is the ultimate nightmare. The preacher’s very role is one of giving voice, making the connection between scripture text, prayer, and the present moment of life.
But for anyone being unable to speak, to be unable to give voice to our understanding, intuitions, and deepest feelings is devastating at its deepest level. We feel we have lost something fundamental to living life and maintaining relationships. We feel the tension of struggling to communicate our experience, and if the silence lasts long enough, we experience the urgency for the inner word to break forth and be heard.
Hold that thought for a moment, and let me lift up the enigmatic figure of John the Baptist. To us he seems a very strange character. But he must be very important because he comes right into focus during these days of Advent, preparing ourselves for Christmas. Not angels, shepherds, or wise men but the very straightforward “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” John declares, “I Am a Voice.”
The gathered Christian community is intended to be the continuing Voice, the herald of Christ. By our baptism, we are all called to be witnesses to the light of Christ who has come into our lives.
John is the voice who heralds or announces the coming of God’s chosen one who the Gospel will go on to reveal is Jesus of Nazareth. Out of his love for God, his deep prayer and reflection in the desert, John has found a word rising within him. John has in the manner of the prophets of old looked at his reality, his time, and has recognized in it all the movement of God. He intuits God’s purpose in the present moment that will affect the future of the lives of the people and that intuition must be spoken. He becomes The Voice that gives witness to the action of God with the urgency that transforms. Does God’s purpose change? Do you think that the function of being The Voice ended with this man John? No, Jesus not only took up the message of the arrival of the Kingdom of God but is that one to whom John gave witness. Do you think that God means for the proclamation of the nearness of the Kingdom to be silenced? Should the voice be silent in the wilderness of the world? Of course not! God intends for the proclamation to continue at all times and in all places. That is God’s call upon us! The gathered Christian community is intended to be the continuing Voice, the herald of Christ. By our baptism, we are all called to be witnesses to the light of Christ who has come into our lives. We gather each Sunday as witness to it, but do we realize that God has called each of us to answer with John, “I am a Voice!” I think that even if we have apprehended that we as Christians are called to be The Voice, we may have developed spiritual laryngitis. What blocks us? What keeps us from claiming our role? We often forget that the work of salvation continues to be God’s work and that we are called to point to it, and walk in it, but that God alone will accomplish it. Our charge this season is to be The Voice crying out Good News in a world that still desperately needs to hear it.
See you Sunday, Rick