Luke 3:7-18/ Zephaniah / Philippians 4:4-7
Perpetual State of Joy
The Good Place
Have you ever done something wrong and been burdened with the guilt? And then later rectified it, willingly accepting the punitive consequences?
In an excellent TV show called The Good Place, the protagonist Eleanor has that experience. Eleanor was a selfish person who didn’t care about anyone while she was living. Then, she died and was sent to the Good Place by mistake.
In that show’s universe, dead people are sent to either the Good Place or the Bad Place. Knowing that she is there by mistake, she tries to earn her true place there by receiving ethics lessons from the soul mate assigned to her, Chidi, who used to be a professor of ethics and moral philosophy. However, things keep going wrong while Chidi is overwhelmed with the guilt that he is harboring a bad soul.
The heavenly architect Michael, who built this afterlife neighborhood thinks it is his fault and volunteers to accept the punishment of an eternal torture. When Eleanor finds out what will happen to Michael for taking a fall for her wrongdoings, she finally steps up and confesses that every bad thing that happened is her fault, and that she was brought to the Good Place by mistake. She knows that admitting her guilt will result in her being sent to the Bad Place, but with Michael about to take a fall for her and seeing Chidi’s moral pain move her heart.
Taking the consequence of being sent to an eternity of torture in the Bad Place was a lighter sentence compared to the burden of guilt living a lie in the Good Place.
There is joy and peace in doing the right thing. When we confess our sins and receive forgiveness, our hearts become lighter because those of us who are not sociopaths or psychopaths feel guilt and empathy. When we do something wrong, we should repent and make amends.
The Preaching of John the Baptist
Last Sunday, we heard John the Baptist preaching the message of repentance and offering baptism.
Today’s story continues the story of John’s ministry. John preaches to those who are gathered to receive his baptism and come back to God. Here, John teaches the crowd what a life of repentance looks like. Producing the fruit worthy of repentance means making amends and doing justice.
When the crowd asks, “What then should we do,” John says that tax collectors should collect no more than what is prescribed to them, that soldiers should not extort money by threat or false accusation and be satisfied with their wages, and that if we have two coats, we should share with anyone who has none. These are acts of justice and the fruit of repentance.
If we belong to God, we should correct our errors and make amends by living a life of justice. Remember the story of Zacchaeus; when Jesus accepted him, his heart was moved to repent and promise to make amends and share his wealth… with joy and peace in his heart.
Belonging to God and living a kingdom lifestyle, as I call it, which means a lifestyle of compassion and justice, fills us with the perpetual state of joy that Apostle Paul mentions in Philippians chapter 4.
He said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God’s people should not worry and be filled with the peace of God, because they trust God. This trusting relationship with God should make us stable, peaceful, and happy, like we are happy in any healthy relationship.
Joy in Relationship with God
As God’s beloved people, we should have never-ending joy in our hearts because God is love, light, and goodness. On this third Sunday in Advent of joy, I pray that we will know true joy, never-ending joy that comes from a right and loving relationship, both with God and with all God’s children.
God made this relationship possible by coming to us in the form of a child from a humble family who grew up to live and die for God’s love. Let us remember this as we wait for his birth and remind ourselves to be joyful always.
Let us sing songs of joy with the words of Zephaniah; “Rejoice and exult with all your hearts. The Lord has taken away the judgments against you. The Lord, your God is in your midst.”
Let us rejoice always, for the love of God was born among us through Jesus. Let us rejoice always, because we have accepted God’s invitation to a life in God’s community of love and justice. This Advent and Christmas, let us share the joy of God’s love by loving our neighbors and doing justice.