advent week 3 – whose story is this?

Before participating in our Advent content, consider reading John 1:19-34 to prepare your heart for Dr J’s message.

John the Baptist is one of my favorite supporting characters in the gospels, partly because he knows that’s exactly what he is. He knows the story’s not about him, but he’s happy to play a supporting role, and I find that attitude conspicuous and compelling.

In today’s full-court press of personal aspirations, public competition, and performance anxiety, I think Shakespeare would have rephrased his famous characterization of life to be, “All the world’s a stage, and we are the stars.” We’re all busily building our audiences, assembling our tribes, and marketing our brand and experiences to the masses. It’s hard not to feel like the story is our story. It’s hard not to feel like we’re the directors, producers, and stars in the extraordinary tale of our lives.

But John reminds the Pharisees and the rest of us that this story is ultimately not our story. It’s God’s. Before creation, God penned the epic tale of redemption and real life that he’s been rolling out ever since. Ironically, these chapters of our lives that we find so riveting aren’t really about us; they’re about bigger things and part of a bigger narrative. We are supporting characters, and the details of who we are and what we’re about serve only to establish the main character, Jesus, and to move his father’s great plot forward. That realization is life-changing and life-giving because it reframes our lives as character arcs in the scheme of greater purposes and a grander story. It recasts our roles as simultaneously so much less and so much more.

Lately, I’ve been watching Marvel movies with my parents. They’re in their eighties, and sometimes the jump-into-the-middle-of-the-action, non-linear style of the production requires me to pause the movie and recap things, so my folks don’t lose the plotline in the commotion. I think that’s a little of what John is doing here. He’s telling the Pharisees not to get hung up on him and what they’ve seen him do because the main character is about to be introduced, and they ain’t seen nothing yet. He tells them everything’s been leading up to Jesus, and everything will be about him in the end.

I still hear the Pharisees’ questions in the daily din of social media and my other interactions. “Who are you? Give us an answer that’ll travel well.” I rise to their challenge too often. I cue the trailer that will hook them on the blockbuster movie of my life, or I let them know my story is epic, and I am too. But John doesn’t do either. He hears the pharisees’ questions as invitations to do his job as a supporting character and points unmistakably to Jesus. He says, “This isn’t my story. I’m not the guy, and I’m nothing compared to him.”

 What if that was our go-to message as well? What if we regularly looked past the complications in today’s plot line and recognized that God is weaving them into his greater story of redemption and real life? How would we behave differently if we regularly saw the action and dialogue of our own chapters as foils for making Jesus and his gospel more vivid and compelling to others? What if the cliff notes or summary statement for our stories, like John’s, was:  “I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (v34)?

Need some community and prayer during this time? Reach out to us and let us know how we can pray for you, your family, your team, and your church this holiday season!

Dr. Andrew Johnston

Dr. Andrew Johnston

Dr. Andrew Johnston (Dr J) builds stronger leaders and teams around the world and around the corner as the owner of Johnston Consulting | DRJC and a sought-after teacher, coach, and consultant. Drawing from his academic preparation in Communication, Psychology, and Leadership as well as diverse experiences as an executive, counselor, professor, and NCAA coach, he encourages and equips some of the biggest organizations on the planet as well as local schools, churches, non-profits, and individual leaders. As a seasoned leader and professor, Dr. J knows the charms and challenges of leadership personally and he prepares people for the real-world challenges and opportunities they face. His uniquely personal style and practical approach help clients connect deeply and discover new skills, new energy, and new vision for their future. Equally comfortable on stage, in a classroom, or over a cup of coffee, Dr. J calls people to a higher place, and leaves them feeling more capable and more hopeful in the process. Dr. J lives in Franklin, Tennessee. He is the husband of a wonderful woman that reminds him leadership is about genuine collaboration and occasionally taking out the trash, and the father of two adult children who remind him that leadership is a high (and frequently humorous) calling, not for the faint-of-heart.

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MAY 7-8, 2024