Preparing for Advent – Part 3

Title: Sing!  Because Salvation Has Come!

Text: Zephaniah 3:14-20 


Shining Happy People

In the 1990s REM, an alternative rock and roll band, created the famous song entitled, Shining Happy People.  It was a sensational song that was constantly being played over the radio.  I can still remember driving in my old 1981 beat up Chev truck that had more rust spots then it did paint, with a radio cutting in and out because it had the cheapest factory stereo of the late 70s pumping out the tunes.  I can hear myself singing the words, “Shining happy people . . .

I believe this song was able and continues to capture the mindset of our culture.  We desperately want to be shining happy people and we will take all the necessary steps in order to be shining happy people.  We buy the latest clothing because it makes us look like we are shinning happy people.  We search the magazines in hopes of finding a new hair style because maybe, just maybe the hair cut will make us look a little more shiny and happier.  We spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery just so we can look shiny and happy. 

Its just not in the looks though, we expect everyone to be shiny and happy.  I remember working one summer at the Blue Mountain Resort as a lifeguard on the waterslides.  Working as a lifeguard at a waterslide park is one of the easiest jobs anyone could ever have.  What teenage male wouldn’t like working where young teenage females arrive in nice looking bathing suits and willing to flirt with the cool lifeguard?  I remember Laura, also a lifeguard who was in college, pursuing a nursing degree, smart and energetic.  Laura shows up to work one day very upset and we all thought the world was going to end.  Everyone kept asking her what was wrong.  Why wouldn’t she smile?  Tell me,” says Laura’s boss, “Why aren’t you happy today?  And I will never forget what she said, “Why does everyone have to be this shinning happy person?  Can’t someone have a bad day in life?

We are shocked, horrified when we discover that someone might be having a bad day.  We ask people how they are doing and we expect an answer of, “Fine, thank you.”  Just try one day to say you are having a bad day and watch the expressions of people.  They won’t know what to say because like the song says, we must be “Shining happy people.

Where Are The Hell, Fire & Brimstone Sermons?
Remember those hell, fire and brimstone sermons?  Wonder why you haven’t heard one in awhile?  It’s probably because they don’t mesh with being a shiny happy person.  Oh, those dreaded sermons where we convince everyone they are going to hell, tell everyone there lives are worthless and what they are doing will send them straight into the hottest pits of the never-ending fire.  I have heard a few hell, fire and brimstone sermons telling teenagers who have grown up in the church that their lives are worthless without God and that they better get right with God real soon.  We convince them they are sinners and then we have them confess Jesus, be baptized into the name of Jesus and then we try to convince them they are not sinners anymore.  In our culture where we are all to be shiny happy people if we preached a hell, fire and brimstone sermon today the pews would be empty the next week.

Judgment Throughout Scripture
Throughout scripture we do find that at times the biblical writers called people back to God through the warnings of the coming judgment.  Noah begins to preach to the people that God’s judgment would come upon them unless they repented.  The people laughed and thought he had lost his mind, that is, until the rain never stopped.  It seemed that they should have listened to the judgment warnings that Noah was giving.

The prophets are notorious for issuing judgment warnings to the people.  Listen to the words of the prophet Amos.

Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of
Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the Law of the Lord, and have not kept his statutes (Amos 2:4-5a).

Amos is warning the people that they stand accountable to God and because they have disregarded the words of the Lord they will be punished. 

Even Jesus himself issues warnings to the people.  He tells the Pharisees that they are in danger of the fires of hell and are in danger of leading the people into the fires of hell.  Jesus tells the people that if they do not have a sense of social justice they will not enter the fullness of God’s kingdom but will instead be thrown into the fire.  Throughout scripture we see to some degree that there are sermons designed to warn us that if we do not live our lives in accordance with God’s word or God’s way then we will be in danger of the fires of hell.

Zephaniah Preaches Hell & Fire
Zephaniah, the prophet we read from earlier, the prophet we probably never knew existed comes preaching a hell & fire sermon.  Listen to some of the words he speaks to the people who are suppose to be God’s people

I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth, says the Lord.  I will sweep away humans and animals; I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.  I will make the wicked stumble.  I will cut off humanity from the face of the earth, says the Lord (Zeph 1:2-3).  I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord their blood shall be poured out like dust and their flesh like dung.  Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed (Zeph 1:17-18). 

Zephaniah preaches destruction to the people because they have turned away from God.  The people have forgotten God and have put their trust in their money, their possessions, in gods who cannot speak or cannot act in power.  And God has had enough!  So Zephaniah comes preaching a hell and fire sermon.  He uses language that reminds us of the flood that destroyed the earth.  We are left with a picture in our mind that there will be total chaos, that there will be utter destruction and that there will be nothing left except ruins. 

After Words of Judgment Comes Words of Hope
Zephaniah’s sermon is not a welcomed sermon.  Who would welcome a sermon where the economy will be destroyed?  Who would welcome a sermon where our RRSP’s would become worthless?  Who would welcome a sermon where our homes, our possessions will be destroyed and we would be left with nothing?  Zephaniah preaches a sermon that is not a welcomed sermon, especially in the 21st century where we are all trying to live with the image that we are shinning happy people.

Yet, Zephaniah is not finished.  After words of destruction come words of hope.  God is not a God who wants to preach destruction he wants redemption and salvation to take place.  And so wherever we have words of judgment and destruction we will often find words of hope.  Noah, when he preached destruction also preached words of hope.  When Amos preached destruction he also preached words of hope.  When Zephaniah preaches judgment he also preaches words of hope.  And so after he preaches destruction he proclaims in a loud voice,

Sing aloud, O daughter
Zion; shout O Israel!  Rejoice and exalt with all your heart, O daughter
Jerusalem!  The Lord has taken away the judgments against you . . . the king of
Israel, the Lord is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more!

The people who once hung up the harps and the violin and put away the drum sticks because they could not sing of the destruction they were facing can now sing a new song because salvation, redemption, hope has come upon them because God has taken away their judgments; has taken away the disasters.  They can sing because God is acting.  They can sing because God is redeeming.  They can sing because God is restoring their broken lives. They can sing because God indeed is acting to save them!  The king, the Lord God is not going to preach destruction anymore he is going to preach salvation and redemption!

The Story of Christmas Gives Us Reason To Sing
Last Sunday evening we did our annual Christmas concert.  It was a great evening with the children making us laugh and of course there was lots of singing.  We had several duets, the “Three Wise Men” or should we say three men singing about “Three Wise Men?” and of course we had some congregational singing.  We did an awful lot of singing.  Have we ever taken the time to think about why we sing?  Have we taken the time to think about why we sing the songs we do?  Have we taken the time to think about why we sing, “Away In A Manger” or “Silent Night,” “Hark the Angels Sing,” or “Once In A Royal David’s City?”  Do we know why we sing these songs?  Because salvation, redemption, hope is seen through the Christmas story.  We sing because we understand that God has now provided a way for us to be saved.  We sing because God has become one of us and has given us life.  We sing because indeed we are saved people!

And so we sing!  We sing every Sunday about God’s salvation!  We sing a new song each day of the week because indeed God’s salvation is upon us.  Do not hang up the harps.  Do not hang up the trumpet.  Do not hang up the voices.  Do not hang up the songs because in singing we are reminded that indeed God’s salvation is upon us.  As Zephaniah says, “Sing aloud!  Should aloud!  The Lord has taken away our judgments and is now in our midst!”  Sing because indeed God is one of us.

This Christmas season sing loud and sing clear for in singing we begin to tell the world that the king, Jesus Christ is born and salvation has come to us.

Published in: on December 19, 2006 at 2:53 am  Comments (4)  

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