As we did throughout Advent 2011 and Lent 2012, we are blogging our way through the Advent 2012 Lectionary Readings. We love this time of year, and sharing with you in this way. Our overarching theme during this season is “Preparing the Path” and our prayer is that as we march together toward the manger, we will prepare the way for Emanuel.
A reading from the Gospel of Luke.
John spoke to the crowds coming to be baptized by him. He said, “You are like a nest of poisonous snakes! Who warned you to escape the coming of God’s anger? Produce fruit that shows you have turned away from your sins. And don’t start saying to yourselves, ‘Abraham is our father.’ I tell you, God can raise up children for Abraham even from these stones. The ax is already lying at the roots of the trees. All the trees that don’t produce good fruit will be cut down. They will be thrown into the fire.”
“Then what should we do?” the crowd asked.
John answered, “If you have extra clothes, you should share with those who have none. And if you have extra food, you should do the same.”
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” John told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
John replied, “Don’t force people to give you money. Don’t bring false charges against people. Be happy with your pay.”
The people were waiting. They were expecting something. They were all wondering in their hearts if John might be the Christ.
John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But One who is more powerful than I am will come. I’m not good enough to untie the straps of his snadals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His pitchfork is in his hand to toss the straw away from his threshing floor. He will gather the wheat into his storeroom. But he will burn up the husks with fire that can’t be put out.”
John said many other things to warn the people. He also preached the good news to them.
— Luke 3:7-18 (NIRV)
“What should we do?”
The question of the ages. We’ve heard what you said, and now we want to know, “What should we do?”
And, then, John prepares the path for the coming Messiah. He gives them an answer that leads to a great sacrifice.
You can’t wear two coats at the same time, so give one away.
Don’t cheat people out of money.
Don’t bring false charges.
Don’t live your life for yourself.
Here’s the voice in the wilderness, the son of Zecariah–the faithful servant–preparing the path for the coming Messiah. The King is coming, he would say, and when He comes so does the Kingdom.
Proclaiming the message of the Kingdom to a people expecting–hoping–for something. Hoping for rescue.
Hope. Confident and joyful expectation in the goodness of God.
Hope. Knowing that God is for you and in that knowing anticipating that God will act out of His goodness–His Character and Nature.
And, out of that place of Hope, the people wonder, “Is John the Messiah?”
That crazy man? Wearing camel skin? Gnawing on grasshoppers? Him? Messiah? Could it be?
But, John, almost reading their minds, tells them in no uncertain terms, “I’m not the Messiah. I’m not even worthy of untying His sandals.”
I wonder what the people were thinking after that. Here they are in a place of extreme hope. A place of confidently and joyfully expecting the goodness of God–the Messiah. A place of hoping that their rescue was nigh.
John, continues on with his message–the good news. The news that while he wasn’t the Messiah, He was indeed coming soon.
Here we are, two thousand years later, proclaiming that same good news. The King has come, and, with Him, He has brought Kingdom.
Yet, we live in the place of tension. We live in that same place of hope. That place between the now and the not yet. We live in confident and joyful expectation of the goodness of God.
We live in the place of hope that God is walking through the valley of the shadow of death with us. We’re not walking alone. We walk with Emmanuel. Because, we know, that God is truly with us. And, as the song says, “If our God is with us, then what can stand against us?”