That’s not a custom I’m used to hearing in December, probably because I tend to think that it’s just too cold to have much fun getting married with snow on the ground. Yet I have family members who did just that, and I bet that their horns honked merrily too.
Can you imagine if your life right now amidst all the bustle and hustle of Christmas preparations would have you so filled with joy that you just had to honk your horn? Imagine driving all the way back from Edmonton or Westlock or Fort MacMurray honking as you went to celebrate getting that last Christmas present or jumping into your car to drive around the block to let your neighbors know that the Christmas Cake was done, or the tree was trimmed. No?
All too often we live timid lives that are afraid to let go, bust loose, shake a bell, bang on a pot or pan. And I can’t say that John’s speech to his people is one that I would feel happy to hear. I can just imagine the complaint if I stood here, shook my finger and called you a bunch of dirty rattlesnakes. Somehow, I can’t imagine it going down well. Good thing it’s not my style!
John pulled no punches and yet his teaching was described as ‘good news’. Go figure! I think it was because he recognized that everyone had a feeling that something was not quite right with their lives. That they were living with secret shames or guilts or burdens that weighed them down. They knew that they were not living honest healthy lives, they had difficult relationships with others, and that they were caught up in the fear that they would go hungry if they didn’t hoard what they could at every opportunity.
John told them that there was no need to fear. There was only the need to reconnect with God. The sense of shame or brokenness was what they saw as sin, a word we find challenging in today’s society of positive thinking. Yet hear what our Song of Faith says around sin:
Made in the image of God,
we yearn for the fulfillment that is life in God.
Yet we choose to turn away from God.
We surrender ourselves to sin,
a disposition revealed in selfishness, cowardice, or apathy.
Becoming bound and complacent
in a web of false desires and wrong choices,
we bring harm to ourselves and others.
This brokenness in human life and community
is an outcome of sin.
Yet evil does not—cannot—
undermine or overcome the love of God.
We are all imperfect humans. The good news as John saw it, was that there was an opportunity for us all to reconnect with God, to let go of our guilt and shame, and come into a dance with our creator. The good news is that John saw it as an easy situation to remedy, and something that everyone could do. Everyone, not just the religious people who know all the right answers and have memorized a bible verse for every occasion, or the people who are always doing great things for the world, like Mother Theresa or Ghandi. The average people. The people that no one expected. The greedy misers who were accumulating stuff. The hated collaborators who were seen as despicable traitors to their own people, and even the soldiers who were not part of the community, but part of the system that was oppressing people in daily annoyances and bullying. The outsiders, the poor, the ones who had given up hope that they could ever measure up.
The solution was simple: Share what extra you have, even when it may seem insignificant. Even if you only have two coats, that is something to rejoice about, and something you can be generous with. Share that you need extra if you don’t have any coat at all. If you don’t tell someone you need a coat, how will they know who to share that coat with? Sharing who you are, what you need and what you have extra of. Simple. Don’t share if you don’t have abundance. The person with one coat is not told to give it away.
Care. Care about what your neighbor is going through. Listen to their challenges, and don’t shame them for not having the ‘right’ faith or the ‘right’ solution to their problems. Give them a prayer shawl, perhaps, or at least pray for them, but shovel their walks and bring them soup if that’s a need. Be the shoulder they can cry on without judgement or advice.
Last but not least, be fair. Don’t cheat your neighbor, your friend, or your community. This seems easy at first but what about those of us who cheat on our income tax, for example, or the speed limit? Maybe we aren’t all employees at Money Mart, but it could very well be that some of those extra rolls of tape follow us home from the office on a regular basis. Or if someone undercharges us for groceries, we pocket the extra and sneer at the person who miscalculated.
Rejoice and be glad, for it is a very simple thing to let go of our shame and recognize God loves us even with our flaws. That is certainly news worth honking our horns for!