Third Sunday of Advent, Year C
December 16, 2012
Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “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. 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. 9 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.”
–Luke 3:7-9 (Common English Bible)
We’ve all done it. A some point or another during this time of the year, we start singing carols, Christmas Carols to be exact. With snow on the ground it makes one ready to sing those old familiar hymns of the season that give us good memories.
But there’s just one problem: it’s not Christmas yet.
It’s not even the Christmas Season which happens between December 25 and January 6 (Epiphany). Wanna know why we sing a song called “The Twelve Days of Christmas?” Because Christmas is in fact a twelve-day celebration between Christmas Day and Epiphany. But our wider culture tends to see the Christmas season in secular or economic terms: the Christmas season begins the Friday after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas Day. We have our Christmas parties during this time of year and we take part in secret Santa contests. It’s supposed to be a happy and joyous time of the year or as that annoying song goes, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”
And then we have John the Baptist come and spoil everything.
He comes around calling people snakes and urging them to get right before God. He must have put the fear of….well, God in the crowd because they ask John what they should do to set things aright.
I’ve always thought John’s tirade to be a bit mean, but these days I can at least understand what he was getting at and it reminds me what Advent is all about.
Advent. That’s the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas where we await the coming of Jesus. It’s a time of waiting and expectation. But even as we wait for Christ’s arrival we are called to take a good look at our lives. We are called to look at how we treat each other and how we are or are not treating our sisters and brothers with justice and mercy. It’s not fun taking a look at what’s going on inside of us. It’s so much easier to just sing a Christmas carol and kind of rush Christmas and all.
But if Advent is about anything, it’s about hope. We can look into our lives and see where we have fallen short, but we can give thanks that hope is on the way in the form of a little baby.
One of my favorite hymns of this time of year just happens to be an Advent carol. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” speaks of the longing for deliverance from oppresors both within and without. It provides the answer to the question the crowds ask John, “What can we do?”
And here’s the answer:
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
And so we wait. And we repent. And we wait some more for the salvation for the healing of all of God’s creation.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Here is what other scholars and pastors have to say about this week’s passage:
Kate Munnick: Practical Theology and Subversive Advent
David Lose: A Promise We’re all Invited To
Jerry Goebel: One Who Is Mightier Than I
Dennis Sanders is the Associate Pastor at First Christian Church in Minneapolis.