“John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:32)
For many years, the people of Israel, the chosen race looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. They recited the Old Testament every day hoping that one day God will eventually send them this Messiah. However, when God finally answered their prayer, they didn’t believe, they looked down on Jesus, rejected his message, questioned his authority and doubted his miracles.
John tells us: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not.” (John 1:10-11). As if God knew how hard their hearts would be in accepting Jesus Christ, God sent John the Baptist ahead of Him to prepare them for the Messiah. Surely, John did such an excellent job. He drew such a huge following that many of the religious leaders of the day believed he was sent from God but a vast majority of them preferred to remain in darkness.
While the tax collectors and sinners were going to John the Baptist to confess their sins and receive baptism, these self-righteous religious leaders continued their spiritual oppression of the people; pretending to pray in the market places yet turning the temple into a market place and doing all kinds of evil in secret. They had become what the prophet Zephaniah described in today’s first reading as she “that is rebellious and defiled, the oppressing city! She listens to no voice, she accepts no correction…”
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus gave a perfect analogy to describe these rebellious Jews who refused to accept Him as the long awaited Messiah. By their external religious actions, they were like the first son who said “Yes” to his Father but eventually, his actions betrayed his words. They performed all kinds of religious activities but their eyes were completely shut to the Messiah.
Dear friends, as we prepare for Christmas, there is every tendency for us to repeat the mistake of these religious leaders. There is every tendency for us to celebrate Christmas and never encounter Christ, every tendency to perform series of religious activities (sing Christmas carols, visit the crib, exchange cards and gifts, perform all-night services, candlelight processions, and so on) and remain completely blind to Jesus Christ. We could just be saying “yes” with our lips but our actions are saying a loud and deafening “No” to God our Father.
Our Christmas celebration could actually become just a charade, a waste of time and valuable resources if our hearts remain cold and unwelcoming to Jesus Christ – if we remain deep in sin refusing to repent yet pretending to be holier than thou – if by our lips we profess faith but with our actions we worship money. James would tell us: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.” (James 2:18).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, please help me, I really want to encounter you this Christmas. May this year’s celebration not be another wasted Christmas for me. Open my eyes that I may not miss you this Christmas. Amen.
Bible Study: Zephaniah 3:1-13, Psalm 34 & Matthew 21:28-32).