It is getting dangerously close to Christmas! And I only say “dangerously” because that is probably the best way to describe it when there are kids involved…
But that magic is still so real for the young ‘uns. They like the atmosphere provided by the lights, the decorations, and the Advent calendars. They like the music, the sights, and even that hilarious fireplace video that plays every year. All of this leads them to joy.
And if I’m honest with you, seeing my family happy makes me happy. It motivates me to do more to increase their joy. Not spoil them, mind you, the kids have grandparents that do that enough, thank you very much. But I do what I can to allow them to experience that magic, soak up the atmosphere, and just know the joy of the season.
I also try to make sure the know that the joy is from the knowledge of Christ among us. Because I’m a pastor, after all…
These readings on the most part are pretty joyful. They are songs of praise and exultation. They remind us of God’s good grace and love. But then we get to the gospel lesson… and it all goes downhill from there.
“You brood of vipers! Who told you to flee from the wrath that is to come?”
Uh, you did, John. And not to mention that people don’t really need to be told to flee from wrath, per se, fleeing is just sort of a natural reaction to it.
But at least John was being helpful in telling the people what must be done in order to get this salvation. Or at least, that is what it seems. John gives a bunch of instruction and basically turns all the practices that they’re accustomed to upside down. He calls them out for the wrongs that they’ve done in the past and tells them to turn away from them and do what is right instead. He sizes up their relationships with each other and corrects them so they aren’t ripping each other off every chance they get.
And then the text tells us that John continued exhorting (not extorting) the people and proclaimed the good news… which doesn’t sound like good news. Or does it?
See, at the heart of all of John exhortations (not extortions), he is giving instruction on how we might build a better community. He is showing us how we can live in better relationship with others. He is basically paving the way for Jesus’ message of hope, peace, and joy in God’s love. So all these things he’s asking (actually telling) people to do isn’t to make them feel bad about themselves, but it is to help them to experience that true joy in relationship and community, in mutual respect and regard, in learning to live for the other instead of just yourself.
And in that, in that way of living and relating, we see God. God with us. Jesus the Christ. Our Messiah.
That is just so…. joyful.
Thanks be to God! Have a great week, everyone!