John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 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.’”[a]
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 axe 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[b] 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[c] 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.”
Life is full of uncomfortable people. If we are careful we can avoid them. You know the sorts, they are so passionate about their own opinions that being with them for more than a few minutes is hard work! And yet every now and again there comes along an uncomfortable person who gets everyone talking. Greta Thunberg is one such person- she is passionate and uncompromising and there is no option to sit on the fence or hedge your bets as far as climate emergency is concerned.
John the Baptist was very like Greta. He didn’t really fit in and from a very early age he knew he had to wake people up to an imminent disaster. He knew that the Messiah was coming and folks just weren’t ready to receive him. And so just like Greta, he started shouting and protesting about the need for people to change their direction and way of life. Some, it seems, were trying to cover their backs by looking as though they were responding to the emergency but they weren’t fooling John- he could tell a real convert a mile off!
Just as we have no real option but to respond in some way to the climate emergency, so we have no real option when it comes to responding to our other perennial emergency, sin, or in other words, failure to be all that we know we should be. We need the help of a saviour to change that in our lives. John urgently points to the solution- Jesus- and he is pointing still. It is so easy to just carry on and ignore the problem, or even make it look like we are making a change, but unless we welcome Jesus this Christmas and all that he can do in our lives we are really just hedging our bets. Don’t hedge your bets- why not make a decision to change and get help this Christmas?