The festival of light and the works of darkness

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In the Scandinavian countries on Midsummer Day, the festival of light and summer beauty, Christians find delight in admiring God's works of creation. Through the night it is so light that one can read without artificial lights and in Lapland you can see the sun shining even at night. To the Christian Church, however, Midsummer Day is St. John the Baptist's Day. The message of this prophet of the wilderness is as timely today in this immoral age as it was during the time that he lived.

John the Baptist denounced the sins of his day by preaching God's Law in all its severity. To the hypocrites he said: "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matt. 3:7). They claimed to be God's children, but their works told a different story. John's preaching struck them to the core. He was not a moralist, merely condemning outward deeds and demanding an improved life. He was the forerunner of Christ, a preacher of repentance and faith. By his severe preaching of God's Law he wanted to bring his hearers to a knowledge of their sins. He baptized those who confessed their sins with the Baptism of forgiveness (Matt. 3:6; Mark 1:4). The impenitent remained "a brood of vipers" or children of the devil.

A moralist does not understand forgiveness. To him the outward gilding of life is enough. He cannot free himself of a bad conscience. All people are moralists by nature. From the standpoint of faith the worse moralists are those who wish to make people good by refraining from calling anything bad.

We need preaching that calls sin by its right name in the sight of the holy and almighty God; preaching that doesn't try to excuse and modify man's misdeeds. We do not have to be afraid of convicting people of their sins, because we have comfort to offer terrified sinners. John pointed to Jesus and said: "Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). This, Jesus has done. God has forgiven our sins.

John preached this forgiveness by grace. It didn't cause complexes, but rather brought harlots and publicans into God's kingdom. To the moralists of His time and to the chief priests and elders Jesus said: "Truly I say to you that the tax?gatherers and harlots will get into the kingdom of God before you... you did not believe him (John), but the tax?gatherers and harlots did believe him" (Matt. 21:31,32).

However, not all who heard believed. Some hardened their hearts. Herod, the tetrarch, was one of these. God is not a respector of persons, and without respect to persons, His prophet proclaimed: "It is not lawful for you to have her" (Matt. 14:4), a woman who is not your wife. We need this type of preaching also today. No one has the right to desecrate the sanctity of marriage.

From the human point of view John opposed one who was too mighty. God's Word did not move Herod; however, the dance of the daughter of Herodias did (Matt. 14:1-12) - not to repent, but rather to obey his lover's ungodly wish. The decapitation of the "voice crying in the wilderness" did not still the crying voice. Herod was mighty in the eyes of men, but "among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist" (Matt. 11:11). After John's death the "crying voice" was louder than ever in the conscience of the adulterer. When Herod heard of Jesus' miracles, he was overcome by superstitious fear and cried: "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead" (Matt. 14:2).

Herod sold a good conscience and peace of mind for the price of a moment of pleasure. Many do the same today, but why?

This is the question we have to ask: Why are so many swayed by the "midsummer dance"? Why do so many try to still the voice of God's Word? Why don't they want to go to heaven, and why don't they want others to go there? It's time for a reweighing of values. A moment of pleasure and eternal anguish or a good conscience and everlasting joy? God has not created the midsummer light in order that works of darkness can be performed.

Jesus, speaking of the light of God's Word, says: "While you have the light, believe in the light, in order that you may become sons of light" (John 12:36).