THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
(December 13, 2009)
Rev. Ron Robinson
Scripture: Luke 1: 7-14
Scripture Reading: 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 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.” 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.”
Reflection: Preachers either love to come upon this text in the cycle of the lectionary to preach upon or they flee from it. But who can resist shouting out to the world, to a congregation, calling them "You brood of vipers", especially to those who have come in from the cold, who have come in to the sanctuary for comfort, who come in to forget about the world for awhile, just for an hour, O lord, let me curl up and sing your praises without having to think about living your life among and with and for others. But John the Baptizer reminds us that all our special status means nothing, all our having a place to go and call our own, and to call God our own, all of that means nothing, is a sacrilege to the very season that draws us in. Let us soar with the music of those we pay to sing for us, we say; let us let others do our giving; what more at the end of a long day, week, year can God expect from us? Oh, John the Baptizer says, find your baptism first in sharing your surplus coats with those without any. It is as simple, and as hard as that. Live simply so that others may simply live. But we want to find loopholes; we postpone decisions of justice; we theologize our way to complexity that allows us to hide from the simple demands of the covenantal life that is ours; we are like a brood of vipers; and it is in these days the truth that Christ comes even unto us vipers.
Prayer: O God of Mercy, surprise us with your Presence this day, and let us know that we may surprise others with your Presence in so small acts of justice and compassion, in ordinary blessings, in a moment of waiting and not rushing, of answering and not neglecting, of doing small chores for the sake of others, for just not being a viper on this one day; do not let us slip into thinking that your life is all that hard and perfect that it keeps us conveniently living our own life; but instead fill us with the joy and peace that comes from knowing Love is so Abundant that we truly can draw upon it in so many ways; it will not run out, therefore we don't have to act as if there is only so much to go around, or that we can be the arbiters of who gets it and who doesn't; O God of Mercy, have mercy on us and our world. In Christ, Amen.