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? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."
And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you." 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."
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.Luke 3:7-18
It is the third Sunday in Advent. We are anxious people as we await the coming of Christmas, of God's real presence among anew. And we are shattered people because of the events in recent days when little innocent children are taken from the world so violently. We ask ourselves, "what can we do?",as God waits patiently to be reborn in our lives, as we continue to try to solve our problems all by ourselves.
Today we hear the story of John and the people that come to be baptized. John doesn't mince words. He tells them they have to change their ways, to stop the greed and self-centered living. He tells them to share their belonging and their money, to feed and care for the poor, and to be satisfied with what we have and really love our neighbors. We are invited to self-examination in this season. We are invited to do all that we can for the benefit of others and to turn our selfishness into compassion and care.
Today, I ask God to help me turn my heart. Help us soften our hearts to where we see the needs of our neighbors and do all we can for them. May we put away all self-defense as we come together for the good of all. May we take up compassion, service and sharing as the marks of God's presence in our lives. And may this day we commit to forgiving the unforgivable, loving the impossible and knowing ourselves to be forgiven and loved, just as we are.
Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.