Embrace the Joy – Proclaim the Good News

by Reverend Amanda

When I was a teenager, I was an intensely private person. I pretty much lived every day in my bedroom with the door closed and did everything in my power to not let my parents or brothers know what was going on in my life. I particularly hated when my brothers would go into my room or when my mother would share with the family any of my private information without my permission. I felt as if it was an unwanted intrusion into my life. Despite how I felt about it, things were shared, and I have grown to be very open with my life. But at the time it was almost a painful experience.

This is what the book of Zephaniah struggles with. Zephaniah invites us to join with him as we struggle with the idea of the intrusion of God in our everyday lives and in the lives of nations and the world. But the question is what does this have to do with Christmas and Advent? Zephaniah speaks to the coming of the Lord which brings with it, accountability, judgment, justice, and the promise of a better world filled with joy, hope, love, and peace. This intrusion comes as a mixed bag of emotions. Yes, there is fear and it is intended to be uncomfortable.

But with the passages of Zephaniah we are called to contemplate our world, our faith, our actions, our lives, and to wait and watch with expectant hope and joy for the new life, the new world that is promised. Jesus is this promised intrusion of God.

With his first coming, we were urged to see the forgiveness and love of God being born a new in the world. With his promised second coming, we are called to hope for a more global reordering of life. This promise is supposed to inspire such hope and joy that we can’t help but both reflect upon our lives, our world, and to reach out and share with all people the hope and love that the coming of God offers to all and with that the importance of righting one’s relationships with one another.

Rich Villodas writes, “When the essence of the gospel is stripped down to the afterlife or to a glorious but strictly individual personal decision of faith, it’s not what Christ described as the good news about his kingdom come. And predictably, there’s no real urgency to see our lives oriented toward a more loving and just way of being in the world … at that core of the gospel, then, is the ‘making right’ of all things through Jesus”.[1] The good news of Christmas is not simply a personal relationship with God but rather the good news is so much more than that. The Good News is about bringing order, justice, accountability, peace, and happiness back into this world.

The promise is about more than the Hebrew peoples. It is about more than just you and me. It is about all of us, it is about humanity. It is an extension of the promise to Abraham to the entirety of the world. This is the good news that John the Baptist tries to urge his people to in our text for this morning. Now granted he does so in a very harsh and jarring manner. I can’t imagine standing up here and opening a sermon with “You brood of vipers”. But this is what he does and it is true to his style, he is using a specific tactic to grab the listener’s attention and this is a shock tactic. He was grabbing their attention for the important information of salvation, the good news he was sharing and he wanted all to be ready for what God was going to do.

Sometimes we all need to have that attention-grabbing moment when it comes to living into our faith. We need to have a bit of an intrusion into our lives to upend everything, to make us take notice. Our world is in a terrible state and it does not seem to be getting any better. Shootings are so common place that we have adjusted to hearing about them, natural disasters are happening every single year, war and war crimes are continuing, and disease is ravaging our world. There is no better time to be reminded about the global hope, the global news of God’s promise. And there is no better time to be reminded about what our responsibilities are in regards to that.

Let us take a note from John the Baptist’s fire and brimstone sermon when he says, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham … In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise”.[2] Let us take notice this year of the real reason for Christmas, let us take note of the hope and in joy let us care for one another. Let us make hate a thing of the past and let us truly embrace the joy of the promise of salvation by righting our relationships with each other and with the world. Let us use this season of Advent to live into the possibilities for peace and good will and make that the story of Christmas this year and every year. Let’s pray that when God intrudes into our world again, that this time we will all take notice of the wonderful changes he urges us to embrace in our lives.

[1] Rich Villodas, 21st century Christian author and pastor from Brooklyn NY.

[2] Luke 3: 8 and 11, NRSV.