“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7)
If I were a betting man, I’d place a large wager that you’ve never seen this greeting on a Hallmark card. Yet this is the greeting John spoke as Sadducees and Pharisees slithered out to the Jordan to investigate his ministry.
John had been preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!” If the essence of John’s message was for sinners to flee the “coming wrath,” doesn’t that render peculiar John’s greeting to the religious elite?
Not really. Where there is no grief over personal sin, where a heart does not mourn over the distortion of God’s perfect creation that it and the world have become, where there is no intention of leaving behind life as it is because it’s all too comfortable, there the approaching kingdom heralds only unquenchable fire.
But where hearts feel sin’s weight, where hearts mourn what their and others’ wickedness has done to God’s world, where hearts long for everything to be renewed by the same hand that first created everything, there the kingdom approaches with water flowing, sins removed, a new heavens and new earth assured.
Does this Christmas find you grieving? Does this Christmas find you dissatisfied with self, ministry, visible church, and world as pale caricatures of what God created us to be? Does this Christmas find you longing for God to make all things new?
Then rejoice in the One who didn’t flee coming wrath! Rejoice in the One born to walk resolutely toward that wrath from birth to death so we’d never know it! Rejoice in the angel’s greeting of good news of great joy in Christ’s kingdom drawn so near to you!