Rev Bill\’s Sermons

December 13, 2009

Zephaniah 3:14-20, Luke 3:7-18

Filed under: Luke, Zephaniah — revbill @ 9:25 pm

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Luke 3:7-18

“Is It Good News?”

December 13, 2009

Advent 3

We finally have a joyful Old Testament lesson before us today!

Zephaniah is proclaiming a day of joy — a day of rejoicing — a day when God’s will will be prominent in the land — a day when exiles will return home — a day when those who are hurt or injured will be healed —  yes – it will be a joyful, beautiful day.

This is a beautiful dream Zephaniah gives us of what the kingdom of God will be like.

It is a day of good news.

So — why can’t we just hold tight to this good news and go on dreaming until Christmas and beyond?

Well, we again have John the Baptist to deal with this week as he stands in our way — with a more forceful message than the one he gave us last week. In the midst of this dream of good news Zephaniah gives us John startles us awake with what we may see as bad news — repentance.

Just listen to how Eugene Peterson in his translation The Message translates John’s assault on his hearers:

“Brood of snakes!

What do you think you’re doing — slithering

down here to the river?  Do you think that a little

water on your snake skins is going to deflect God’s

judgment?  It’s your life that must be changed —

not just your skin!”

You know — you could logically ask what these two lessons before us today have in common with each other.

Is it that the good news of Zephaniah becomes the bad news of John the Baptist – like a bad “I’ve go bad news and I’ve got good news” joke?

Or — is there more?

There is indeed more. Both Zephaniah and John the Baptist are addressing God’s will for the world. Zephaniah deals with it as if the dream – and the good news not yet fulfilled.  John the Baptist deals with it as if the dream – the good news – has been fulfilled.

John knows that we are on the other side of Zephaniah’s dream.  John knows that Zephaniah’s day of good news — the day of the Lord — has come. The day of rejoicing has arrived.  John knows that the will of God is now a possibility and not just a dream for us.  John knows that all this has come about because God has come into our lives and our world through Jesus Christ.

It seems to be good news.

But — is it?

Is it good news?

Christ has come into our world.

God has come to be one of us.

History has been changed forever.

The dream — the good news — of Zephaniah has become a reality.

The will of God is possible.

That is what we celebrate at Christmas.

That’s the news of Christmas.

But – is it good news?

Christ has come.

Dreams can be fulfilled.

But – is it good news?

It depends.

It depends on how you respond to the coming of Christ – and if you let the coming of Christ make a difference in your life.

It depends on if you see Christ – and respond to His coming by letting Him change you.

God has come into your world — into your life — through Christ – but is it good news?

It all depends on how your respond. How you respond to the coming of Christ will determine whether it is good news for you or not.

If you want the coming of Christ into your world to be good news for you, the first thing you have to do is recognize Christ.

Most of us don’t know a lot about Rossini’s opera “William Tell” – although I am sure that all of us would recognize it’s overture – especially the rousing finale that became the theme of The Lone Ranger radio and later television programs.  I have to confess that I was a Lone Ranger fan as a kid. Regardless of what else was happening, I wanted to be in front of the TV when lines:

A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty “Hi-yo, Silver!”, The Lone Ranger!”

would come from the TV as the Lone Ranger galloped into view – for I knew that –         as the announcer would remind me every  show:

Nowhere in the pages of history can one find a greater champion of justice”

Yea – I loved watching “The Lone Ranger” – but I was always confused that almost every episode would conclude with someone asking: “Who was that masked man?” – and somebody else would say, “Why, didn’t you know? He’s the Lone Ranger!” I could never understand that here was someone whose life had been saved, whose money had been restored, whose ranch had been protected — their whole lives saved from peril  — and yet all the way to the end they didn’t have the slightest idea who it was who had saved them. Why hadn’t they ask at the beginning of the program instead of the end? They would allow him to do all this stuff for them without knowing who he was.

They let the Lone Ranger do great things for them without recognizing who he was.

It didn’t make sense to me!
Friends — how you respond to the coming of Christ will determine whether it is good news for you or not.

If you want the coming of Christ into your world to be good news for you, you have to recognize who He is!

Just as it did not make sense to me for folks to let the Lone Ranger do great things for them without recognizing who he was — it does not make sense to let Christ offer to change your life – and let Christ offer you salvation – and not recognize Him!

The news of Christmas is that God has come into your world — into your life — through Christ.

Is it good news?

It all depends on how your respond. How you respond to the coming of Christ will determine whether it is good news for you or not.

So – if the news of Christmas – the fact that God has come into your world through Jesus Christ — is going to be good news for you – you first have to recognize Christ in your life.

Then – you have to respond by repenting of your sins and letting God change you.

Like those who first heard John the Baptist, you would do well to ask:

“What must I do?”

Christ has come.

God is among us.

But — what must you do?

How must you respond?

For this to be good news for you must repent.

For this to be good news for you you must have your life changed.

For this to be good news for you you must let the good news of Christmas — the coming of Christ change your life.

John the Baptist says you must:

“Bear fruit worthy of repentance”

What are the “fruits worthy of repentance” that John is talking about?

I would suggest actions that go along the same lines as actions John the Baptist suggested to those who asked him the same question.

Actions that will show to others that God is in your world and into your life.

Actions that will show to others that your life will never have to be the same again because Christ is in your life — and their lives can never have to be the same, either.

Actions that will let others know that Christ has come — and that it is good news — for you – and for them.

The good news of Christmas is that the coming of Christ can change how you live — now! The repentance John the Baptist preached about can be a complete change of life  — because Christ has come.

Specific actions must given up – and specific actions must be done — in response to the good news of Christmas. Only when you see that your actions are a direct response to God is Jesus’ coming going to be “good news” for you.

The Danish theologian Kierkegaard tells the story of a rich King — who — at a very high price – bought a faultless team of horses.    The horses were the best in the land.  But — the horses were allowed to slip out of  training. After a year or two they were weak, dull, quirky, and full of bad habits.  At last the king asked the Royal Coachman to come in and see what he could do with them. After a month, no other team in the land carried their head  so proudly — no other team could keep up with them as they ran thirty miles at a stretch.

“How did this happen?” the king demanded.

It was easy enough to explain.

The king had driven the horses according to the horses standard of how they should be driven. The Royal Coachman drove them according to his standards.

Friends — Christ has come!

That’s the good news of Christmas!

But – you must let God drive you according to His standards.

You must let God change you.

When you do that, Christ’s coming will indeed be good news for you.

You have to have specific, visible, measurable actions that show how your life has  been changed by Christ.

What are these specific, visible, measurable actions that can show how your life has been changed by Christ?

The specific actions are going to be different for each of us — just as they were different for each group that John the Baptist  addressed — but – there are some general guidelines you can follow in changing your life as a response to the good news that Christ has come into your life –

your new actions must be actions of love —

your new actions must be actions of compassion —

your new actions must be actions that show an increased love for God and for those around you

your new actions must be actions that show others that you recognize that Christ is in your world and in your life.

The good news of Christmas is that God has come into our world through Christ.

Is it good news for you?

It is only good news if you recognize that Christ has come – and let the His coming into make a difference in how you live.

Actions such as increased sense of sense of responsibility to be actively involved in the worship, fellowship, and outreach of the church can fit into the category of actions that “bear fruit worthy of repentance” that John speaks of. So can actions such as an increased interest in what the Church is doing in the community — and getting involved in that – or actions such as looking for specific ways to share God’s love with the world —  sharing what God has blessed you with to help others.

John suggested specific actions  to his listeners to show that they recognized that God has had come into their lives through Christ and that they were more oriented towards God —  that they were now being “driven” by God. These were actions that showed that their lives — and not just their skins — had been changed by God.

The only way for the good news of Christmas – the good news that Christ has come into your life and changed you – to be good news for you is for you to recognize Christ —  and let Christ change your life in specific ways.

Friends, Christ has come.

Recognize Him.

Look for specific ways to let Him change your life.

Look for ways to let the coming of Christ indeed be “good news” for you.

Look for ways for you to be “driven” according to God’s standards!

A woman was rushing through a department store loaded with wrapped Christmas presents when she hurredly turned a corner and ran into a man coming from the next aisle.   Her packages flew everywhere.  As the man helped her pick up her packages — she exclaimed:

“I hate Christmas! It always has a way of turning things upside down!”

You know — that’s just what you need!

You need to have your life turned upside down by Christmas.

You need to have our priorities changed.

You need to truly have your life changed by the coming of Christ.

The good news of Christmas – the good news that Christ has come into the world and changes those who come to Him — is indeed good news — it is indeed joyous news – and  — it indeed gives us a new way to live.

Recognize Christ!

Let Christ change you!

It would indeed be tragic if your response to the good news of Christmas was:

“who is that masked man?”

and you not let Him change your life.

Let the good news that Christ has come change your life!

Christ has come to fulfiill the dream of Zephaniah — and to lead you into new ways to live.

Christ has come to change your life — and not just our skins!

Christ has come to re-orient you to God.

Christ has come to show you God’s standard — and drive you according to God’s standards.

Christ has come to turn your life upside down!

Let the coming of Christ that we celebrate this Christmas lead you to see the good news of the coming of Christ – recognize Christ in your life — and lead you to live a life that is completely changed by God. Then it will truly be good news! Amen.

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1 Comment

  1. [...] Read the entire sermon here to find out what this has to do with Zephaniah and Luke!  « What Jesus Thinks Of Christmas     [...]

    Pingback by Rev Bill » Blog Archive » Sermon: Zephaniah 3:14-20, Luke 3:7-18 — December 13, 2009 @ 9:32 pm


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