Summary: How do you reconcile judgment and joy?
14Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! 15The LORD has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies. The king of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more. 16On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak. 17The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing 18as on a day of festival. I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. 19I will deal with all your oppressors at that time. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 20At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gather you; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the LORD. Zephaniah 3:14 - 20 (NRSV)
7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.” 15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. Luke 3:7 - 18 (NRSV)
Things can be vastly different, depending upon which angle you look at them. A middle-aged man was distraught over his wife’s stubborn refusal to admit she had a hearing problem. One day he asked his family doctor for advice how to convince his wife that she has this problem. The doctor promptly told him that when he got home he was to confirm the problem by opening the front door and, from there, asking his wife what’s for dinner...if she doesn’t answer, move closer to the kitchen. Repeat the question again, and if she still doesn’t answer, move right up to her ear and whisper in it, what’s for dinner, honey? In this way, the doctor assured him, she’ll have to admit she has the problem.
So the man raced home with joy in his heart and opened the front door. “What’s for dinner, honey?” he asked. When there was no reply he moved closer to the kitchen and asked again. “What’s for dinner, honey?” Silence! When he looked into the kitchen, sure enough, she was there, stirring a pot. So he tiptoed over to her and whispered in her ear, what’s for dinner, honey? Immediately she turned and looked straight at him: For the fourth time, I said, we’re having Spaghetti! 
When you look at the two texts for this morning you are tempted to think the two prophets, Zephaniah and John the Baptist, would have a knock-down, drag-out brawl if they met on the street. Seemingly, they could not be further apart in what they say about how we ought to be thinking about God. Zephaniah says God is singing our praises, while the Baptist calls us a family of snakes! We want to say, make up your minds, boys – is it singing, celebration and joy or is it woe, despair and agony on me?