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Journey to Bethlehem Day 21

Saturday, December 19 John 3:23-30

23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).
25 Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John the Baptist seems to have an unwavering sense of purpose to prepare the way for the Christ; and to exalt him. At the heart of John’s exemplification of Christ is the role in which John saw himself playing—the friend of the bridegroom. The friend. The one alongside, the one included at the party, the one anticipating the marriage of the bride and the bridegroom. Not only does John not feel dejected at the increase of Jesus’ ministry, but he also rejoices as the friend because he is tasting a fulfillment of his purpose.

In a conversation I had with my daughter recently, she said: “It just sounds selfish. Like God wants all of the attention and doesn’t want anything for me.” As I sat listening to her—aware of parts of my heart that felt the way she did, but also aware that exalting Jesus was to our good—I struggled with how to respond. Then I sensed the Spirit reminding me, “Relationship. I desire relationship.”

Relationship was what was missing in my conversation with my daughter, and it’s the piece that John the Baptist understood well. Without relationship with God, without sensing our intimate role in his greater story, our hearts will grow bitter, isolated, and wounded in service to a god who seems to demand everything of us with little return.

However, God’s invitation to follow him is an invitation to share in the party, a party in which we are his friends, and our joy finds completion in him and in the work that he is doing, preparing the bride for the wedding.

Yet, sometimes what becomes clear in our heads, is not as clear in our hearts. What is the condition of your heart in service to Christ? Is it a heart full of joyful anticipation that willingly desires to serve and draw attention to Jesus? Or does it feel in competition with God’s purposes in pursuit of self-aggrandizement? Is it a restless heart full of insecurity and fear? Do you see yourself as a friend of Jesus? Do you feel that level of connection to him?

Loving Lord Jesus, you remind us in John’s example that you not only invite us to exalt you, but you invite us to friendship, to share in your joy; to shine the spotlight of our life on you, as one in deep relationship with you. This is hard because we want to make much of ourselves and put our trust in our self-made kingdoms. Open our eyes to your greatness and to your truth. Show us where we feel resentful and isolated from you. Guide us deeper into friendship with you. Amen.