Prepare to listen. Light the pink candle. Take a moment to be still and silent, then pray: Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid. (Isaiah 12:2)
Read: Luke 3:7-14
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? 8Bear 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. 9Even now the axe 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.’ 10And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ 14Soldiers 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 we journey to Christmas to celebrate the incarnation—God became flesh in Jesus—we’re asked to pause and repent; not something many of us associate with Christmas; it wouldn’t be the first word out of our mouth to describe Christmas. We choose words like joy, festivities, giving and receiving gifts. But, the Advent journey calls us to pause, take time to reflect on our lives and repent, turning away from all that is not of Jesus. The call to repentance and confession of sin rang clear in John’s message to the gathered crowd. This, he maintained was the only way to prepare to receive the Messiah. His message was in-your-face, and politically incorrect. ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance.’ Immediately three different groups of people asked, ‘What then should we do?’
This is the question we too need to ask ourselves today. What should we do? John’s answer? ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance.’ What are these fruits worthy of repentance? In a sense, it depends on our circumstances, as John’s answers to the three different groups highlights. However, there is an underlying theme in his message to them—justice for the poor and the oppressed. These are fruits worthy of repentance because justice is what God expects, desires and demands.
Where is justice most needed around you today? How can you practice this essential fruit of repentance?
Respond to Jesus in prayer
Help me today, Merciful Lord, to bear the fruits of repentance. Open my eyes to perceive where justice is needed and what I can do to act justly, in small or big ways. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world, bearing fruits worthy of repentance by practicing justice.