I've never really thought of John the Baptist as one who would be Uplifting or Encouraging to me. I mean, yea, he's the Desert Preacher–and I guess his job is to Move People to Action, which in some manner means to Encourage, but I've always viewed his methodology as Forceful, Aggressive and/or more or less Condemnatory. The
Baptist, being a prophet in his own right kind of elicits fear, but maybe we always fear when we're moving towards the holy one.
John's opening verbal volley is just a bit intimidating--as he calls his first listeners a "Brood of Vipers." That's not a very nice to way to begin a sermon for a group of people who've made a long journey out to the wilderness to hear a message from someone they don't really know! Gosh, kind of makes a pilgrim feel like we're
being attacked by John. Not sure why, but I always thought Jphn was addressing the Pharisees, or somebody other than us Common Folk, However, Luke does indicate that John was Speaking to the CROWDS and that's you and me!
Now that we've identified that we were basically in the category of those who have identified themselves as the Recipients of John's initial wrath, what Makes this Passage Change over to one of Encouragement??
Well, we catch that part around Verse 10,.....where the People want to know what they are supposed to do in order to please God??
Note the crowds ask, what should we do??
John's answer is simple and well familiar to us:
Where he essentially says–"share whatever you have with someone else who is needy."
What should impress us here is not that john wants wealthy people to dispose of their assets (though that may be implied too!) But that the people want to know what they can or should be doing to please god and obey john's baptism,,,,,apparently they don't feel they're being beat over the head with orders and commands, but,
rather—they are hungry for his words, and responsive to what he tells them.
This is encouraging to us – to know that in order to be a faithful follower of Jesus – we don't have to experience a big guilt trip......rather we can be genuinely interested and desirous of doing god's will and wanting to please the lord by acts of devotion and caring.
The instructions go on to other persons in other life vocations and circumstances, the tax collectors want to know how they can be considered as righteous, and john clarifies their proper conduct in that task to which they are called–don't collect more than Rome requires....this probably came as good news to the publicans because
they are relieved of guilt otherwise associated with their profession.
Finally the soldiers want to know if they are included in the new kingdom now breaking forth with the advent that john speaks of. John tells the soldiers to be faithful in their task – not abusing their power for personal gain, but being content with their pay.
Finally, John points everyone to the Truth to which he is pointing: HE SAYS, "i am not the one, but one is coming who is more powerful than i!! This is Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The one is Coming who alleviates us of any guilt we yet are held captive by. The Lord Jesus removes our inadequacies, he
fills us with genuine love and desire to serve God, and by the Power of the Holy Spirit we are motivated to love and serve others.
So, I would hope that all of us can hear John's message* for us in this third Sunday of Advent. *That there is a place and a calling for all of us in the new era coming into being with the Advent of the one whose Shoelaces we are unworthy of tying, Nevertheless, the One who is coming is the Lord Jesus whose Promises are Sure. He
will fill us with enthusiasm to serve God and our fellow humans–this is the work of the Holy Spirit –who is our Encourager, Helper and our ADVOCATE.
So, today's Message is one meant to Encourage us, and it is GOOD NEWS for us to know that Christ Did Come, and Fulfilled the Words of John, he Is Among Us in the here and Now and we look for his Coming even as God continues this GOOD WORK in each of our LIVES and in the MIDST of The Church and as the Holy Spirit is at Work in the
World. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.