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. [NRSV]
What should I bring?
If we knew Jesus were coming to our house for Christmas this year. Everyone would be gathering around a beautifully decorated treat what we wrap under the tree for Jesus?
<story of Sam Bangura spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with our family> The welcomed stranger brings Christmas Joy for lifetime of “Christmas Gift”
In this third week of Advent, our preparing has lead us to be 1) Alert and On Guard, 2) Making room and paving a Way, and today 3) we talk about Gifts and Presents:
Asking: What does Jesus want for Christmas this year? Know the answer will be “what Jesus wants every day.”
John the Witness, John the Baptizer, John the Spiritual Road Pave-er tells us:
Bear fruits of repentance:
- If we have asked for forgiveness, live as though we have been forgiven.
- If we have forgiving some one treat that person or relationship with grace like we have forgiven.
- If we have not forgive then we have some work to do.
- As long as you have two coats and there is someone who has no coat, we have work to do.
- As long as we have food enough to eat and there is someone hungry, we are not done.
How to Bear Fruit when we have things working against us?
It’s one thing when the ground is fertile and serving is easy. It’s hard NOT to bear fruit on a mission trip. People will complain many times about the cost of going on mission trips when there is so much to be done right here at home. But let me ask this: How many mission trips have you heard about that were fruitless? Oh there will be roadblocks, illnesses, and set backs, but have you ever heard of a mission team coming home saying. We did nothing good, we got nothing out of it. It was a total waste of time, money and energy. I’ve never heard it… We invest in having a fruitful, productive, meaningful and powerful experience from the outside expectation.
(We don’t always do this when we are near home. So close to home, we are more likely to say: We will get to it soon and when we get around to it.) Advent is a Round-to-it time of year.
An uncommon audience
The tax collector and soldier are two who have come to hear John’s teachings and ‘good news’ and as how do I do my job that seems be so hated or feared… how to I do my job and serve God?
These two folks the Tax Collector and the Soldier were feared and hated, most because they were the first line of OFFENSE from the government. Interesting advise from the prophet helps us all:
Do you job: Collect what is due. BUT don’t take advantage of folks. (Don’t run a title pawn that keeps folks in poverty.)
You work for the government. Do your job, don’t use your position to take advantage of folks.
It’s ok to make a profit don’t extort, don’t take advantage of folks.
It’s fine to make money: John Wesley’s advise on money: Make All you Can, to Give all you can, to Do all the Good you can. But use money as tool and instrument of Goodness, blessing and grace rather than power, abuse or oppression.
Back to the Gifts: What gifts do we bring to Jesus for HIS birthday?
Side Note: John the Baptizer were speaking with authority and connecting with people helping the to find their way closer to God and so they thought he might be the Messiah.
“Nope, I’m bringing Water, Jesus is bringing Fire.”
“You think I’m fired up for God, God is about to send his very own Firestorm. Look out, be on guard, get ready and keep asking for a status report.
Jesus wants, what I need.
What I need vs What I want.
I want a gift card from Krispy Kreme, what I need is accountable set of scales.
I want to be blessed and loved, what I need to is to be a blessing and love unconditionally.
I want protection and care, what I need to offer support, counsel and keep a watchful eye on someone.
I want freedom and grace, what I need is to let go of leverage, grudges, guilt and shame and model grace.
The gift I give is the gift I receive.
Jesus wants folks fed, clothed, friend-ed and connected in grace.. the John the Baptist Question:
AM I GIVING THAT GIFT as daily witness?
Do I still need to go shopping?
Have I been looking for the wrong deal?
As long as Im asking for the status report, I’m on the right track… Ask you neighbor: Have you gotten Jesus’s gift yet?
What have you got him today?