“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:33-37
In the Coffee household, we have been on our usual Christmas steady fare of Christmas movies. Christmas, it seems, is such an enormous cultural event, Hollywood just cannot make enough “Christmas miracle” movies. It’s a standard template: there is a hero (or a heroine) who is flawed and relatable in some fashion and who does not believe in the magic of Christmas. Enter conflict (or an antagonist or dire circumstances or a hilarious parade of unforeseeable events) and there is an ensuing struggle. Finally, there is a Christmas miracle and our hero is saved and now believes in the magic of Christmas.
This year, my attention has been grabbed by how the church is portrayed in these Hollywood versions of Christmas (if it is portrayed at all). It seems to me that, more often than not, the church is portrayed as a bit silly and irrelevant and disconnected from anything, well… normal. I don’t know, but I strongly suspect these portrayals betray the writers’ own stories about their church experiences growing up. …
“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:8-14 [selections]
John the Baptist was given the assignment of preparing a people to receive a savior. God would use John to help the people see that, beyond a political hero, what they needed most was a spiritual savior. So, in fulfillment of this calling, what do you suppose are the first words out of his mouth in issuance of this “wake-up call”?
“You brood of vipers!”
That’s just mean. Right? Those words are just harsh. But they seem to have gotten the people’s attention. It wasn’t long before they were asking John, “What do we need to do?” He then started rattling off impossibly inflexible rules for them…bad conduct that was the most deeply ingrained in their culture, things it would have been extremely difficult to change. It would have required a huge shift in how they thought about other people. It would have caused them to think, “Wow, that’s nearly impossible!” And that, of course, is exactly the right response. John would have said, “And THAT is why you need a savior!”
So, it got me thinking. If John were to come to the church today in order to get us ready for Jesus to return, what would he say to us? Assuming we too are a “brood of vipers” and …