This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, "I am not the Messiah." - John 1:19-20
In college, I wanted to be an actor. During my junior year, I went to New York City to meet with other graduates of my college who were working in the theater. One person's advice stood out. She said, "If you can do anything else in life and be happy, do that, because this business is so difficult it has to be the one and only thing that fulfills you."
I instantly thought of ten other fulfilling things I could do with my life. In that moment, I knew I was not going to be a professional actor. It was a worthwhile discovery. And anyway, I'm too tall for Broadway.
"I am not the Messiah," says John the Baptist. This is an important career confession that many of us could repeat daily, multiple times: "I am not the messiah. I am not the messiah. I am still not the messiah."
Because sometimes we think and behave in ways that say: "I could be the messiah" which is only a half-step to "I totally am the messiah!" taking on more responsibility than appropriate, even putting ourselves on God's throne, or on Christ's cross, two places we absolutely do not belong.
John's clear and emphatic no clears the way for an equally emphatic yes for his true calling to be "a voice crying out in the wilderness." The same could be said of Advent.
Advent is about saying no to roles, duties, and callings are not ours. No, I'm not responsible for that. No, I am not going to be all things to all people. No, I can't save this person or fix this situation. No, I am not the messiah. Say it out loud right now: No, No, No! (Doesn't that feel good?!)
What needs your "No" today to prepare the way for a full, unrestrained "Yes!" when the messiah comes next week?
Lord, teach me who you are, who I am, and who I am called to be.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series publishe by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.