Monday, December 10, 2012

Advent Devotional - Dec. 10


Matthew 3:1-12 ;
3 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
        “Prepare the way for the Lord;
        make his paths straight.”[a]
4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”

Nothing warms the heart more this Advent season then a little a fire and brimstone.  Forget the yule log, this type of rhetoric will keep you warm and cozy for a long time.  Joking aside, how many Christmas cards do we see quoting John the Baptist’s rant against the religious rulers?  This was my first impression until I realized how much I, a religious leader, need to pay attention.

In Luke’s gospel (last Sunday’s lectionary text), John the Baptist goes on a similar rant but it isn’t associate to a certain group of people.  It was simply preached to the crowd that showed up.  But this one, in Matthew’s gospel, is directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees; the religious leaders of that time.  So how do I, as a clergy, deal with what John the Baptist preaches to me this Advent season?

I feel this is a call to action for us clergy this time of year.  Advent is always BUSY beyond belief.  There are all the holiday parties, Christmas preparations, and all the other ‘stuff’ that comes with the season.  But do we priorities what we should be concentrating on this time of year?  For me Advent is a time to do the best worship possible.  Worship in a way that builds up to the Christmas, not just celebrate it for a month at a time.  If we do that, we will be better off and truer to the nature of this time of year.  But reality can be different.  I can get focused on what “I” have to do that forget my job is to get people ready for Jesus.

The holy seasons, Advent and Lent, are not about us, it is about Jesus.  We have to not focus on ourselves and remind ourselves that we are supposed to be about God in everything that we do.  We cannot sit back and rest on our laurels.  Instead we need to be active in the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in this world.

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