In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Matthew 3:1-12
Clergy kids are very comfortable with all the rituals in the church. When we were kids, although my Dad did not,as a Presbyterian minister, practice immersion baptism, we thought it a delight to practice on one another. We knew all the words and would hold each other under the ocean water as long as possible. I have watched my children do likewise. Growing up by the ocean, water was so much a part of our lives we took it for granted. And yet water is a precious commodity and necessary for healing our bodies and sustaining life.
John drew people out of the city, out of their comfort zone and brought them to the river to be baptized. They came because they understood that God was drawing near and they wanted to be part of it. He didn't hold back with the religious leadership. He told them that they were to change their ways and to live as God intended without their selfishness and greed. He told them not to rely on their status because God was not concerned with money or station but rather with the love in one's heart and the demonstration of care and compassion. We are invited as we prepare for Christmas, for the coming of Christ anew, to focus on love and service rather than the tinsel and the ornaments. God is seeking to be with us, to live with us and we are simply asked to make a home for blessings.
Today, I ask God to help me be a home for blessings. May our lives reflect the love of God - humble, inviting and compassionate. May we live each day making room for others, turning from our innate greed and sharing the gifts that we have. May we be lavish with love and tenderness so that others might share our blessings. And may we let compassion flow like the ocean, over all of us, until God's presence in known in the depths of our being.