Looking for glad tidings of Christmas cheer?
Sorry to say, but you won’t find it in the Gospel of Matthew this week…yet again.
Instead we’ve got a man gone wild, shouting insults at people in the wilderness. He’s making threats with an axe. It’s Jack Nicholson from The Shining crying out, “Here’s Johnny!” https://vimeo.com/150423192
That doesn’t seem right.
It seems, um, not safe for church (NSFC).
Very clearly someone made a mistake…either the folks who put together the Revised Common Lectionary that dictates which lessons are read in worship each Sunday…or the Gospel of Matthew for not giving us a manger scene...or maybe even God for choosing this kind of messenger?!
But remember what angels, God’s messengers, say each and every time they show up in the scriptures?
Do not be afraid.
They have to tell us not to be afraid, because they are terrifying. They are terrifying because those messages they bring from God are so different from what we want to hear. They are terrifying to us because they ask us to take part in something so different from what we are already doing. They terrify us because they ask us to trust in the impossible, putting aside everything we thought to be true.
We are terrified, because they ask us to be changed.
So really, John the Baptist in all his camel’s hair glory, is nothing less than what we should expect coming from God. We should not be surprised that his words are not sweet to our ears, for the only thing he’s honey coating are his locusts. With his fiery words and a metaphorical axe, he’s clearing the way for something new.
And maybe, just maybe, this wildly inappropriate—some would even say offensive—delivery might get us to turn away from every other distraction and turn back to God, so that we can behold what God is about to do next.