Reading: Matthew 3:1-12
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume 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. Even 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. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
We are in the season of Advent, but this story of John the Baptist is far from joyous. The only part that seems related to the coming of Christ is that we need to prepare the way for his coming. Everything else in this text is John the Baptist living a life as an outsider and giving everyone a good tongue lashing. I think he took notes from Malachi and/or some other fire and brimstone prophets. Right before Christmas I do not want to hear about wrath and being burnt with unquenchable fire.
Then, I took a closer look at what the text was telling me. It gives me hope that one can repent from one’s wrong doings. John was getting people ready for Jesus and letting them know that Jesus was near. John is letting everyone know how powerful and righteous Jesus is and that Jesus is coming to save them all. Now that is something to be joyful about as we anticipate the coming of Christmas.
God of all who brings us hope we praise your holy name. Thank you for people crying out in the wilderness who spread your message to all. As we move closer to Christmas may we share the true meaning of the season with our family and friends.