“Umphant” must have been what John had when he preached. The word of the Lord sought him out and he went all around the region of the Jordan preaching, calling people to repentance, to baptism and to do something about it. Let’s keep in mind that John is regarded as the latest and the last of the prophetic line in Israel. In a sense this is the final warning before the Savoir comes. It is kind of like the warning that athletes get when the time on the clock is running out; something like, “last minute of play in the period”. John is telling the people that the One that was promised to come is coming and the time is at hand. We need to straighten out and straighten up our lives because he is coming and we will be judged by him we need to be ready.
It used to be that judgment was to be feared or what I now call the “God of Maude”. God will seek you out and will get you for what you have done, just because someone disagrees with you. John is not talking about that kind of judgment. The judgment of God is not like that – not at all. John tells the people that listen to him that they cannot rely on who they are (in terms of their heritage and ancestry) or what they have (position, power and authority) when it comes to judgment – what will matter is how one has lives out their life. And if you take a moment to consider who John is talking to – he is taking not just to the religious and the lawyers, he is talking to the poor, the tax collectors and the soldiers. He is preaching to everyone who is in the nation. Without judgment, there is no presence of justice. After all, all flesh will see the judgment of God.
As a response to what they have heard people ask the natural question “What shall we do?” How can we respond to the fact that judgment is coming. John’s preaching points to the need for repentance and a need to live a life that is worthy of such an act towards God. And how do we live a life worthy of repentance and mercy? We need to share, we need to be fair and we need not to bully. Sounds almost too simple does it? Faith and fidelity aren’t just for heroes; the fortunate and the few. It is for everybody. All of us can share what we have because we have something that God has given us to share with others. We need to be fair in our dealings with everyone as well as honest and true. We are not able to always control what happens to us we are always in control of how we act and react when things happen to us. That’s where the ‘umphant’ comes from: the willingness to stand up and stand firm and to speak with grace and with courage. We are called to stand for those who are in need and who have fallen and have walked away from God. We need to do good (not just be good) for their well being and because we are also responding to the love, the grace, the mercy and the call of God in our own lives. We know how to share, be fair and not bully. And while its sounds like stuff we learning in kindergarten and Sunday School – it can be some of the hardest and roughest things we do. Stand in for someone else is not an easy thing. And yet with the ‘Umphant’ we are enabled to overcome.
Moving towards being an overcomer, trying the ‘umphant’ thing can also make one fearful and yet we are encouraged by Scripture to “Fear Not”. Fear is numbing and therefore is corrosive to the human spirit. Courage is the willingness to walk into the gloom of these days of Advent not because we are fearless but because we know and trust the One with whom we enter into it. So as we wait for the King to come with the dawn of his day, let us seek out the sacred and the extraordinary in the everyday goings on in life and do the things to which we are called with enthusiasm. Let us share, be fair and not bully. Let us live a life that is worthy not only of repentance but of the life that was offered for us. And let us do so in the name of the King.