It really is starting to look like Christmas around here! Decorations, music, and holiday sales at all your major retailers! Those sales sure come in handy with our kids’ ever-growing Christmas wish list of stuff, stuff, stuff.
Whoever came up with the idea of Santa Claus’ “naughty or nice” list is a genius. Tell the kids that if they’re too naughty throughout the year, then a lump of coal is all they could look forward to. Scaring the kids straight always seems to be the definitive effective way for discipline and behavioural adjustments. With the fear of not getting exactly what they want for Christmas coursing through their veins, that is enough to have any kid do what they can to be nice enough, behaved enough, and good enough to meet the minimum requirements of Santa’s list.
And how has that been working for everyone so far? Let’s just say it isn’t that effective in our house (also our kids don’t really think Santa is real because he doesn’t make sense).
When we first hear of John’s words here, we find them harsh and borderline mean. People were just wanting to get baptized, because in their heads that is what was going to save them from the wrath to come. Is there anything wrong with that? Yet John calls them a brood of vipers, which however you might want to slice it, is probably more an insult than flattery.
Why is John so angry here? Why the harsh words? Why the finger wagging in their general direction?
I think it’s because the people were acting like they wanted a reward. They were going through the actions they thought they needed to go through in order to gain the prize. They did just enough to meet the minimum requirements to be saved from the wrath to come.
The things is, they didn’t get it. It wasn’t that they needed to be saved from the wrath to come, but they were to see how they were already saved. They didn’t need to meet the requirements of anything because God had already deemed them worthy. They don’t have to try to get off the “naughty” side of the list to land on the “nice” side, because salvation isn’t dependent on action or work.
It is dependent on grace.
And it is this grace given to us through love that changes us, motivates us, and renews us as God’s people in the world. So when the people ask John what they should, he answers not with requirements, but with results. Not requirements to be God’s children but the results of being God’s children. Not requirements for salvation, but the results of being saved. Not requirements to gain God’s love, but results of being recipients of God’s love from the beginning of time.
This is a love shown to us through creation. A love shown to us through community. A love shown to us through the birth of a child, bringing to us hope and peace, that we might look forward to the indwelling of God’s presence in our lives, reminding us that we are, have always been, and always will be God’s beloved and cherished children.
Have a great week everyone!