Year C Advent 3 -13th December 2009
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." 10 "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. 11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" 13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely - be content with your pay." 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.
What is good news?
Won lottery? Done all your Christmas shopping? You have got enough money to pay for Christmas? You're here?
John doesn't strike you as good news type of person. He insults people by calling them snakes, slippery and dangerous. He tells them they will be judged by God.
He then tells them to produce fruit, in the plural.
You can look at this as being negative, a spoilsport, and many people have this idea about the Christian faith. But...
God's wants us to live a certain way because it is best for us and other people. It is good news.
The good news goes further than this. It is found in the person of Jesus, who John had come to tell people about. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
John's baptism represented the spiritual cleansing that repentance, turning from what is wrong to what is right, brings. However, John could not give the power to people that they needed to repent and to live for God. This is something that Jesus would do. After Jesus' death and resurrection God sent the Holy Spirit to live in believers. To give us power to turn from what is wrong to follow Jesus. To open our eyes to what Jesus has done for us and our wills to respond. He gives the ability to live for God and to follow God's ways. To produce the fruits that John demanded. He gives the gifts we need to serve God in our churches and communities.
We need God's Holy Spirit. To turn people and nations from war, from self-serving pollution that threatens the environment, from exploitation of the developing world, from greed that leads to unemployment and poverty.
Two weekends ago I noticed that Argos had a great reduction on a flat screen television. I knew my parents had been looking to replace their nineteen year old, smallish television for some time, so I reserved one for them at their local store, and rang them to tell them. They went out a bought a television, not actually the one I had reserved but a better one. But, had I not told them, they would not have acted.
Last week we saw how we can play our part in spreading the good news of Jesus. Of being partners in the gospel with one another and the Holy Spirit.
We, and others, have to respond to that good news. Again, and again and again. We do this by trusting in Jesus. Our Epistle today gives us a picture of what that involves.
It involves relying upon God for everything. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
This will result in us having a different attitude coming from the confidence this brings. 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
This will bring us the deep peace of God, verse 7, which will result in us rejoicing in the Lord. This Christmas some people may rejoice in tradition, carols, the ambiance of the Christmas season. Yet, we are called to rejoice in the Lord, all of the time.
Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!