Advent Devotion, 12/16/22
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Imagine this scene with me from Matthew 3 for a moment. I envision a growing crowd on the horizon, impossible to miss in the vast open wild. Maybe there were people posturing up front while others were enthusiastically waiting in the baptism line. I envision some approaching the edges with curiosity and others standing on their tiptoes to get a better look. The Pharisees & Sadducees were there too, the religious yet insincere who came with stunning robes but righteous hearts.
I imagine energy bubbling up and the whispers – “John fits the description from Isaiah! The kingdom of heaven is near! This is it! Could it be? Now what? What does it mean for me? And how do I keep from missing out?”
All of the buzz, can you feel it? The anticipation?If I now imagine myself in the crowd, I’m sure I’d be running in little circles, making a list: It’s coming! Scrub the floors! Prepare a welcome basket! Go go go!
But then, John doesn’t waste any time getting to his main message: The path to the kingdom starts with repentance.
Repentance. Not the do-more-be-more-look-like-you-have-it-all-together way we are surrounded with today. But instead, John tells us that the way to prepare for the day when God will make all things right is to repent. As Sarah Bessey describes it, “Repentance is an invitation to a beautiful, life-giving, reorientation towards God’s good path of flourishing with ourselves, our neighbors, and our world.”
During Advent, this is an invitation for a deep exhale, a turn toward what is good and right and true and whole. It’s a turn away from our own ways of making things right. How might the Lord be calling you to repent and prepare your heart for his coming?
Jesus, as we anticipate Christmas, may we prepare a way for you and your light in the world. Help our hearts to repent and reorient toward you. Amen.
ADVENT PLAYLIST SONG
“Pave Every Road,” Caroline Cobb, “A Home & a Hunger: Songs of Kingdom Hope”