Today we celebrate the first week of Advent. Advent is our four-week season of preparation for the nativity of Emmanuel, God-with-us. The first week is always spent talking about the prophecies that foretold Jesus’ coming, and today’s passage is one of those prophecies that leads us straight to Jesus. We begin with a word of warning from John the Baptizer:
Luke 7 (New Revised Standard Version)
7 John 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? 8 Bear fruits worthy of repentance.
John’s startling appearance at the beginning of Advent always reminds me of someone’s weird Uncle John who shows up 4 days late for Thanksgiving and disrupts the tryptophan-induced coma that the family has been comfortably enjoying. He looks strange, he dresses oddly, and he eats some weird kind of keto-paleo-whole 30-vegan diet that only consists of locusts and honey. He barges in with a loud message of repentance and warns about the judgment that is coming. He interrupts the football games and calls the family a “brood of vipers” … basically killing the mood as you’re trying to get ready for Christmas. Yeah, John is a total buzz kill. John’s message was hard to hear then, and it is hard to hear today. What does he mean by bearing fruits that are worthy of repentance?
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11 In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14 Soldiers 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.”
Did you get that?
Share your resources with people in need.
Practice integrity in your work.
Treat people fairly.
Don’t cheat anyone.
Only speak the truth.
Be content with what you have.
And repent and return to God with your whole heart.
John’s “Getting Ready for Christmas List” was long, complicated, and had nothing to do with decorating, shopping, buying, and waiting for Amazon deliveries. Getting ready for Christmas really involves getting our hearts and minds ready to worship the Christ child in the manger, and bowing down our expectations, disappointments, hopes, ambitions, frustrations, and every other part of our selves before his throne.
How will you get ready this Christmas? May we heed John’s words and share what we have while we adopt a life of Christ-like integrity. This is the best way to prepare for the birth of the baby king. Are you in?