3rd Sunday of Advent | December 16, 2018
Luke 3:7-18 New Living Translation (NLT)
7 When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”
10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”
11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”
12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”
14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.
John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”
15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.
This week we look at the grown-up John the Baptist. Luke tells us that John is the one the prophet Isaiah wrote about when he said:
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The Lord has spoken!”
John was a fiery preacher. He preached the importance of repentance. One of the messages that we pick up here is that John warns those who have come to hear him preach that they should live in such a way that proves that they have repented and turned toward God. He also reminds the believers that just because they are Jewish, it doesn’t mean that they will automatically be saved – they must repent and live a life that pleases God and shows that they love Him. As we prepare for the arrival of Jesus, the same message applies to us. Following the exchange above, John gives examples of how those who have gathered should live.
There were those who were gathering who thought maybe John the Baptist was the one, but we are reminded that John was simply preparing the way. John replies that he his not the Messiah and not even worthy to tie his shoes (or sandals.)
The purpose of John was to prepare the way – the people were expecting the Messiah. In these days – especially as we approach Christmas, I encourage you to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus. In my travels over the last couple of days, I have been finding many Scrooges and Grinches. This is a great time of the year to be extra nice to the clerks in Walmart or other stores. It’s a great time to tip a little extra to a server when you go to a restaurant – and be NICE to them. Be nice and pleasant to the young people in the drive thru lanes of your favorite restaurant.
One of the fire department marques locally has a sign that says, “Be the reason for the season.” At first it seems a little weird, but it should be something that we Christ-followers should take to heart. Jesus was incarnate – meaning he was God in the flesh. We have been called the be the hands and feet of Jesus. We have been called to be Jesus. So the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” What if we would be Jesus to those around us? I really believe that we can make a difference as we expect or await the arrival of the Messiah.