Guest Blogger: Daniel Drew, Lakeside Chautauqua Board Member
7-9 When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to deflect God’s judgment? It’s your life that must change, not your skin. And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as ‘father.’ Being a child of Abraham is neither here nor there—children of Abraham are a dime a dozen. God can make children from stones if he wants. What counts is your life. Is it green and blossoming? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.”
10 The crowd asked him, “Then what are we supposed to do?”
11 “If you have two coats, give one away,” he said. “Do the same with your food.”
12 Tax men also came to be baptized and said, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “No more extortion—collect only what is required by law.”
14 Soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He told them, “No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations.”
15 The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, “Could this John be the Messiah?”
16-17 But John intervened: “I’m baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
As we rush through the season of Advent, hurrying to get to Christmas, hoping for the peace and joy that it can bring, let us stop and listen to today’s lesson.
The Gospel of Luke is the only one that gives us the Christmas story, of Jesus’ birth as an infant. Scholars believe that Luke, who cared deeply to get the women’s perspective on events, interviewed Mary, and she shared her story with him, and thus, we get the beautiful moving first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke.
Chapter 3 moves us forward with Jesus’ adult life and ministry. In today’s reading, we get the fiery John the Baptist giving us the real purpose of why Jesus came to our world.
This “Message” version makes it quite clear: Jesus came to ignite the kingdom life and light a fire within us so that we can feel and know the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. This process will allow us to “clean house” and burn away all of our “trash” of our lives. This Holy Spirit within us will call us to change from the inside out.
Often, when we begin the self-improvement journey, we begin with the physical aspect of our lives; cleaning our closets, basements and garages getting rid of old “stuff.” Or we start with our bodies, eating better and exercising more.
Reflecting on this lesson, should we perhaps not also turn to discard our “spiritual trash.” Can we in this Advent season throw out our old hurts, which keep us from moving forward and loving others? Can we throw out God’s redeeming fire, our prejudices that we have been taught, but are not true in the real world? Can we examine our interior lives, so as to grow forward spiritually and not be stuck in the same routines and customs, which might be “fun” but have no real meaning or purpose in our lives?
Advent calls us:
Beyond parties, to PRAYER.
Beyond cards, to CONVERSATION.
Beyond singing carols, to REAL JOY IN PRAISING GOD.
Beyond festive foods, to LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITIES.
Beyond material gift giving, to DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Beyond praying, to WORKING FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE.
Come Lord Jesus light the fire within us.