[Common English Bible]
“This is just as it is written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet;
A voice crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
Make his paths straight.
Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill
will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
and the rough places made smooth.
All humanity will see God’s salvation.”
Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, ‘You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgement that is coming soon? Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.’”
Luke 3:4-9, Common English Bible
I almost feel no need to try to add to these provocative, clear words. This scripture is powerful enough as it is. I do not want to take away from the strength of this message with some illustration I hope is a clever way to make these verses “pop” more.
The Christmas season is one in which we love to feel warm, cozy and peaceful. We want everyone to get along and we make sure to spread good cheer all around. It’s a season for hot cocoa, evergreens, wrapping paper, nativity scenes, church and Christmas stories. It’s a time to see pretty lights and listen to carols sung by choirs. It comforts people to hear about a baby born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths, and sought by wise men. Christmas reminds us of the great gifts God has given us; it reminds us how blessed it is to give back. Something about Christmas makes us want to settle in, perhaps even get snowed in, and relax.
Yet, the mood described in scripture suggests nothing of the sort:
“Make your paths straight!”
“Crooked places will be made straight.”
“Change your hearts and lives.”
“The ax is at the root of the tree.”
“All humanity will see God’s glory!”
This is the Advent message. As the people of God we wait for the coming of our holy Lord and King; but are you ready? Are you prepared? Do you live a life that produces fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control)?
This advent season, as we wait, let us not do so asleep. We must prepare. We must stay alert and keep reminding each other to stay awake. May we not be lulled to sleep by the corrupt systems of this world. May our hearts and minds be renewed and transformed by the Word. At this point it may be worthwhile to reread the scripture cited above. Amen.
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