December 12, 2021
Luke 3: 10-18
For most of my years (and now, that’s a LOT of them!), I honestly thought we “rejoiced” in the pink on this Sunday of Advent because we were half-way through this liturgical season! We were that much closer to the celebration of Christmas! Somehow this Advent, however, doesn’t seem to offer too many reasons for rejoicing, no matter how close we’re getting to Christmas!
There’s no need to detail our national and global woes, despite our education, sophistication, determination and cooperation. That litany is too familiar to most of us. What also seems to be familiar these days is that for every political or social step forward, there seems to be a counter-balance of resistance. This reality is not just playing itself out at home. It’s happening in nation after nation. It can really be demoralizing. It can really be exhausting. It can really suck the hope right out of our hearts! So, why “rejoice?”
Zephaniah tells us that the Lord is in our midst. Paul tells us that the Lord is near. John the Baptist tells us that one mightier than himself is coming. What the commentary on these Scriptures also tells us though, is the SECRET for our rejoicing! “Yahweh”s presence in the midst of Jerusalem provides DEFENSIVE rather than OFFENSIVE help! Here the protective presence of God contrasts with the (life)threatening presence of death-dealing forces!”
This language acknowledges that the People of God of Zephaniah’s time were under attack. Their faith, their hope, their dreams, indeed, even the fulfillment of God’s promises seem to be threatened, as ours seem to be today, BUT the Scriptures tell us at the beginning of this third week of Advent, as they told our ancestors of old, that God, through God’s grace and the power of God’s Spirit, will enable us to hold on to what we believe about justice, equality, the importance of fairness, the care of those made poor, the sick, our elders and the Earth. God, in our midst, will help us sustain our commitments to the imprisoned, to asylum seekers, to global refugees of war and genocide and poverty, etc. while acknowledging and attending to the needs of our own people.
The news worth rejoicing over TODAY then, is that the God we believe in, will strengthen US against discouragement, hopelessness, indifference, cynicism, writing groups of people off or just plain quitting in our efforts altogether! That IS good news worth rejoicing over! We can lean on God in these, our times, and if we allow it, God will sustain US! God will renew us in love. What we need to do, for our part is, “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving make known our requests to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” So… yes… “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say it, rejoice! Indeed the Lord is near.”
Luke 3: 10-18
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”
Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
The Gospel of the Lord