Scripture: Luke 3:7-18
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
This week I had a late shift at Menucha. When it was time for me to go pick up the kids, I looked out over a darkened Columbia River to the twinkling lights of Troutdale, Camas, and East Vancouver. Those lights twinkled almost like the candles I am so fond of this time of year. They reminded me that being light has both challenges and joys.
I find it quite an ironic backdrop today, lighting the Advent candles of Hope, Peace, and Joy when the news is filled with disasters from storm flooding and tornadoes – who ever heard of a tornado hitting southwest Washington? Or, if you want to look a little farther than our region, how about all the political slandering and off-color interfaith comments that have no place in today’s global stage of multi-faith Spirit-seekers? “You brood of vipers!” says John the Baptist in Luke’s Gospel reading today.
I had an interesting time trying to figure out how the Christmas themes we all find touching fit together with such a strong message of challenge from the Baptizer. I almost wanted to re-title this sermon “Avoiding the Viper-ness Within.” On the other hand, maybe his message is exactly what we need.
Maybe, if we had a time machine with inter-continental relocation and multi-lingual translation and we could have John the Baptizer step in and show up on the socio-political stage of our current times. “You brood of vipers,” indeed! Yet – who am I to echo John’s words, preaching by Trout Creek-which this week flooded like a river? John the Baptist is, after all, speaking to me, too; and maybe each one of us in some way.
When he preaches repentance, he isn’t just asking me to say, “I’m sorry for those uncharitable thoughts that keep popping into my head (or, heaven forbid, in my less self-governed moments spewed out publicly on Facebook or out loud to my family members).” John’s asking me – no, calling me to real repentance – to come before God with an expectation of being reborn; in my soul, in my being, in my thoughts, relationships, in my very faith and life style. What does being reborn look like you may ask?
It’s not that radical, unless our contemporary culture of acquisitiveness has worked its claws into your soul, as it has been trying to do in mine. It is so easy this time of year to go overboard with gift giving – and wish list writing. Christmas, though, is about something deeper. The Baptizer says, in effect:
- After all, we are but stewards of all that is God’s.
- Let go of greed. Be content with what you receive.
- Don’t use what power you have to oppress.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But it is good news: John, and our repentant hearts, prepare in us a way for Jesus – who comes not to grant us what we want, but to change us and what it is we need. John baptized with water, but Jesus will baptize with fire. Ignite us, Lord. Amen? May it be so.