For Sunday, December 16, 2012
Zephaniah 3, Isaiah 12, Philippians 4, Luke 3
Third Sunday of Advent
At one of my sons’ request, we started meeting two weeks ago to discuss the key features of the Christian faith. We agreed to use the Westminster Shorter Catechism as the basis for our conversations. Catechisms aren’t popular these days in evangelical circles, maybe because they sound so Catholic. Yet replacing “catechism” with “conversation”, what better way to ground ourselves in what we really believe than to ask questions and formulate answers? A friend recently pointed out that 85% of all evangelical kids are presently abandoning their faith after high school. Is this because the counter case is so strong, or because their grounding is so shallow?
The first question I raised for my son was, “What is the chief end of man?” I asked him, “How do you think most people today would answer this?” Without hesitation he answered, “To get more stuff.”
This week’s passages offer a sharp contrast to this “get more stuff” view of life. There is a God who loves us deeply; at present we are under punishment as a result of our alienation from him; yet God himself is at work to remove our punishment and reconcile us back to him. Zephaniah puts it this way: “Be glad and rejoice with all your heart . . . The Lord has taken away your punishment. The Lord … is with you; never again will you fear any harm.” Isaiah concurs: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Luke then puts a point on the decision before us either to accept or reject the offer of redemption God offers to each of us through Jesus Christ: “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.”
If the Bible speaks truth, those of us choosing to live to “get more stuff” are going to end up on the chaff heap of history. Deep down, if we actually stop to think about it, we already know this. We also know there is something far better intended for us. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever. It is the Advent of Jesus that has secured this end for each of us.
This is why the Apostle Paul could say to the Philippian Christians with such confidence and conviction: “Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything … And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“