Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Promise, love, now joy! The promises God fulfills, the love He shows through them, and the joy that is ours because of them. Like how a child, promised their favourite food on their birthday, rejoices as they enjoy that loving fulfilment. Or like a COVID contact, promised freedom and health after 14 days, rejoices as they leave their lockdown. We who are baptised and believe have been promised New Life Everlasting! All Our Heavenly Fatherâ€™s adopted children are freed from the burdens of guilt, and the power of death! Rejoice! And again I say rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). You who are united with Christ, rejoice that your enemies, sin, death and the devil, have been defeated! You are free! Free to hope, to love, to rejoice, and to be at peace! What wonderful Good News, proclaimed today! God is our salvation!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The Lord God is our strength and our song, He has become your salvation! All Godâ€™s Work through the Old Testemant points toward this singular joyful truth, just as we of the New Testament reflect it back. As Zephaniah proclaims, â€˜Sing, shout aloud with the New Jerusalem, that beautiful and beloved bride of Christ, daughter of Zion (Zephaniah 3:14)! The Lord has turned back your enemy, and at that time He will rescue the lame, gather the scattered exiles and deal with all who oppress you; at that time He will gather us and all Christians, those who have died, those still suffering, all of His people; He will gather us rejoicing together, He will gather us home (Zephaniah 3:15-20). He will make straight paths, level hill and valley, and send that prophet out of the wilderness, proclaiming, â€œprepare the way of the Lord!â€ (Isaiah 40:3-5). John the Baptist, the prophet of prophets, the new Elijah, proclaiming on the wild banks of the Jordan a baptism of repentance; of turning to a new joyful way of life, the way of Christâ€™s life.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â John the Baptist, as we heard today, exhorting the people and proclaiming the Gospel on those banks, â€œYou brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?â€ (Luke 3:18; 7). You snakes, who told you to turn to the One who loves you? Of course, we know just as they did, it was Godâ€™s own prophets who told the ancient Jews, the Holy Spirit Himself who drew them to the banks of the Jordan, just as He draws you here today. Now maybe like me, you donâ€™t want to be the brood, the offspring, of a snake, maybe like me you want to be a child of God! And the crowd thought the same, â€œwhat should we do?â€ they cry. And John just repeats Godâ€™s Word to all people, from the beginning of time to now, â€˜Trust in the Lord God and fear notâ€™.
God is not just speaking to a chosen few, nor to just the respected of society, it is to the hated tax collector and the shunned soldier as well; His salvation is for all. So donâ€™t rely on those other things for salvation. Donâ€™t rely on the things of this life, rather give of your possessions, your food and clothes, to those who are in need; donâ€™t abuse the power given to you, collecting more than required, or extorting or falsely accusing, rather be content with what you receive (Luke 3:11-14). For possessions and power will not save you from death; it is only God Almighty who can defeat all our enemies. For as the prophet proclaims, â€˜behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â My strength is not in food, in health, in house or home. My song is not in money, in respect, in family or friends. These wonderful gifts of God are not my salvation; if I trust in them, I will be afraid of loosing them. The pregnant woman has been given a wonderful gift, yet if we trust in that child, we fear losing them. Yet the Child of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God, the lover of mankind, He has defeated death for us, and on the last Day He will gather us all to our everlasting home together. He is with you according to His promise, He loves you and He does not lie. With Jesus there is nothing to fear for He more terrifying than all that terrifies us, your own sin, death and demonic attack; He is stronger than all that oppresses us, and He has won the victory, in Him we are free. Yes, still you suffer sin, guilt, death and attack in this life; yet you are joined to Christ; in Him you are already dead and live by His life, His Resurrection is already yours, His Ascension is already yours and His coming in All Glory is the final revelation of your salvation. We commend ourselves to Him. As Isaiah sang and prayed this passage, The Lord God has become our salvation, with joy we draw living water from the deep wells of His salvation; never ending refreshment in Christ even in evil times; for we know what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do for us. He has promised us everlasting love for all creation, and in this certainty, we can rejoice!
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â And as we await, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, from now until He brings us all home. Amen.