What Then Should We Do?

Zechariah 3:14-20

Isaiah 12:2-6

Luke 3:7-18

Blessed are they who find Christmas 

in the age-old story of a babe born in Bethlehem. 

To them a little child will always mean hope and promise to a troubled world.

Blessed are they who find Christmas in the Christmas star. 

Their lives may ever reflect its beauty and light.

Blessed are they who find Christmas in the joy of giving to others. 

They shall share the gladness and joy of the shepherds and wise men of old.

Blessed are they who find Christmas in the sights, sounds and smells of the season. 

To them shall come bright memories of love and happiness.

Blessed are they who find Christmas in the festive music of Christmas time. 

They shall have a song of joy ever singing in their hearts.

Blessed are they who find Christmas in the message of the Prince of Peace. 

They will ever strive to help Him bring peace on earth, goodwill to all people.

John.  A prophet raised up by God to get God’s people ready for the coming of Messiah.

Messiah’s coming ushers in a new age, a new way of God’s relating to us.  Messiah’s coming changes how God’s people relate to God, and influences/changes how we relate to one another.  So the prophet heralding this new day had to be special.  Unique! 

John was an Elijah-like-prophet.  On purpose.  By God’s design.  Elijah was a prophet of fire.  He stood on Mount Carmel, taunting the prophets of Baal to call on their “god” and light their sacrifice.  Those prophets shouted, screamed, hollered, and cut themselves for hours.  All to no avail.  Their false god was not able to light the fire of their sacrifice.  Elijah then dug a trench around God’s altar, doused the sacrifice several times and prayed once.  Fire came down from heaven and burned the sacrifice.  

John was like Elijah—rough looking.  He dressed in a camel-hair robe with a belt around his waist,  long-hair, scraggly beard.  Leather belt around his waist. He lived out in the desert, eating what he could, sleeping where he could, out under the stars.  He was no pansy.  He was a “stand alone sort of guy” who didn’t care what others thought of him. 

Amazing.  It is amazing to me that he drew such large crowds out to him in the barren countryside.  But they did.  In huge numbers! What attracted them?  How did he get his start?

One thing he did—he told the truth.  Even when it was not pleasant to hear.  

THE CALL TO REPENTANCE

“You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruits worthy of repentance…”

Translated:  You bunch of snakes!  Judgement day is coming and you are in deep doo doo!  Not very flattering, but people knew he was right.  

Another thing he did—he didn’t let them rest on their laurels.  They could not bank of good looks, their education or bank accounts.  They could not trust their church attendance or good lineage.  

“‘Do not being to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor.’”

They had one hope for a good relationship with God.  One hope alone.  Repentance.  And not just the type of repentance where they could say, “sorry,”  “my bad.”  No.  They needed to have a soul deep, bonafide repentance that meant a complete change of heart, a total life style change.  

“Bear fruit worthy of repentance…even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

No Facebook, Twitter, or any social network.  No cable news network or omnipresent reporters.  But people were hungry for honesty, integrity and truth.  And they knew they were in trouble.  They felt it in their bones that they were not right with God.

ANXIOUS, HOPING FOR CHANGE

A tell tale verse is verse 15, “the people were filled with expectation…”

God was on the move.  People sensed it.  They didn’t want to miss out.  

Today is similar.  Our culture is ripe for cults and false prophets who promise answers and help and understand of the end times.  But there is only one source for truth.  John had that truth.  Today we have that truth through Jesus and God’s Word.  Don’t be duped.  Don’t let yourselves be fooled.  Be Jesus focused and Christ centered.  Don’t fall for end time hysteria and phony hype.  Jesus will come again.  But we have work to do in the mean time.  So, don’t be negligent or passive.  Put your faith into practice!  John’s advice is to be generous and kind, have integrity and purpose in your living.  

THE JOY OF GIVING

What, then, should we do?

John tells the crowds to give gifts.  That fits in with the spirit of Christmas! Have two coats? Give one away.  Have food? Don’t hog it.  Share it!  The third Advent candle is the candle of joy.  There is joy in giving good gifts.  There is joy in not giving in to fear, and in doing the next right thing. Focus on being God pleasing and caring for others.  John’s recommended gifts go past the consumerism and capitalism of our normal giving.  And he continues to give counsel and guidance on life style choices as well.

Be kind.  Be generous.  Be fair.  Be honest.  Be good.  Do good.  Don’t just talk the talk.  Walk the walk.  Let your faith be genuine and soul deep.  Live your faith out loud.  

How has your faith in Christ Jesus changed you?  How has it shaped your values?  Has Jesus changed your priorities?  Has your faith changed how you spend money?  Are you generous and kind to the poor?  

If we listen to God through our readings today, we, too, must ask “What should we do?”  We don’t want to be chaff burned in fire.  We want our faith to be more than skin deep.

God give us faith like that.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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