Thursday, December 16, 2010

A YouTube Advent Calendar: December 16

But when John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
- Matthew 3

These are harsh words, and they were aimed at those who did not “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” They were aimed at those who followed the rules for the sake of following the rules, not for the sake of a relationship with God.

We’ve all known people who followed rules as carefully as they could. Don’t you find such people insufferable? It’s as if they’re afraid of really enjoying life. Not that we should all go around breaking rules for the same breaking rules, but neither should we keep them merely for the sake of keeping them. Rules are meant to guide us into something bigger and more joyful. But what happens to those who fear joy?

I feel my body weakened by the years/
As people turn to gods of cruel design/
Is it that they fear the pain of death,/
Or could it be they fear the joy of life?

These lyrics are from the Toad the Wet Sprocket song “Pray Your Gods,” from the album Fear. The song ends with the repeated chorus “Dona nobis pacem”—Latin for “Give us peace.”

Gods that only demand rule-following are indeed cruel gods, because their punishments are not based on love.  They demand sacrifices in blood—our blood.

But our God of love waits eagerly for His children to come back to Him. He gives us not a punishment but a remedy: the gift of Himself.

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