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Matthew 3.1-12 Reclaiming Christmas “Brood of Viper Cards”

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In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume 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. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” [NRSV]

I recall my parents making drawn and silk screened Christmas cards as part of the family tradition of preparing for Christmas. Part of the handmade effort was the personal and creative gift the other was for economical reasons. Each year mom would draw some variation of Mary and Jesus, occasionally including Joseph, an angel or a star. Dad would do the printing. My jobs waving the paper for the ink to dry, affixing stamps and sealing the envelopes. After the fourth or fifth church, it was necessary to use a bulk permit to cover nearly 800 hundred cards to church members, family, and friends. Somewhere along the way, a simple gift became a chore and the tradition change to about 100 written cards. The issue was the growing gap of ingenuousness between the original gift to the present.

What had been a creative chore, became a dreaded task not to forget or offend.

What is the appropriate message to share at Christmas?

  • For some, it is the annual family letter. If I have one good thing to say about Facebook, is that it seem the longer FB is around, the fewer Christmas letters I receive.
  • For some, mention every attribute of a Bing Crosby festival but offers wishes for happy tidings and warm companionship with everyone.
  • May You feel God’s presence in the candles, that softly spread their glow at Christmas and may you experience the wonder of His abiding love, as He guides you, through each day of the coming year.

  • For others, the cards convey perfunctory words of acknowledging goodness and an unclear image of peace.
  • Thinking warmly of each of you and wishing your family an extra measure of comfort, joy and hope.

  • We have tried to send Christmas cards, but we typically send them out during the Christmas season, rather during the weeks of Advents.  [as late as St Patricks Day]

What about the Cards from the John the Baptist Card Collection?

  • Front: May your camel’s hair coat be scratchy and you locust be toasty, may your voice be one crying out I the wilderness this year. Inside: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
  • Front: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near! Inside: 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.
  • Cover: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor. Inside: He will gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 
  • Best Cover: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Inside: Bear fruit worthy of repentance.

John the Baptist reminds us to ask each other: for what are we preparing? Christ, ourselves or something else.

Our response is to say, “80 percent may be for me, my family, my idea, my traditions, my memories, my warm fuzzy feeling, and 20 percent is for you Jesus.” You complete the percents for yourself.

I have shared by Christmas list with Santa, I have begun to buy gifts for others, I have begun to get out decorations, I have begun filling my calendar with events, I have begun singing along with Christmas favorites, but

Can anyone tell Jesus is the driving cause of my actions, or have I left that to chance and hope others will guess what leads my heart and life.

It’s not about “Merry Christmas” it is about Jesus.

  • John the Baptist is not so worried about offending the Jewish leaders, as he is making certain everyone knows to be humbled before Christ.
  • Jesus is the King whose roads need to be made ready, not the government
  • Jesus is the is the one worthy to give himself for us
  • Jesus is worth shouting boldly about to the world

So what?

Advent, Preparing, Reclaiming the task of preparing: The example is baptism.

REPENT: Turning around and Remembering we are claimed by God, made new in Christ, forgiven and made whole through water and the Spirit. 

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