Historically the third Sunday of Advent calls us to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” I don’t like the word “worthy” it smacks of shame, judgement, and exclusion. But then I dig a little about its meaning, history, and context. Worthy means to “have merit,” “meritorious,” “to have reasons to be named such,” and maybe even “to live up to?”
John the Baptist had strong words today. The stronger ones, “you brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7) are reserved for the religious. A brood of vipers kills their mother from the inside, so John the Baptist thought that due to their lack of compassion, love, and justice the religious leaders were “gutting” their identity as God’s own.
They were not the only ones . . . we too are often guilty of eating the way of Jesus into death from the inside!
The coming of Jesus shows us concretely what it looks like to live God’s way. The prophet reminds us, prepares us for what’s coming, and gives us concrete examples of what it looks like. I find it interesting that each challenge is uniquely suited to each group. In the end is all about all of us who claim to follow Jesus to do what God does. Talking is cheap, action is what Jesus came to show us.
I wonder what that fruit looks like for us? If repentance is about changing our insides, our inner compass, whom guides our being, what fruits are worthy of our movement towards the way of Jesus?
For me in this season the fruit of repentance is being more present to the now. I am addicted to the future, to ideas, visions, possibilities. I am addicted to that which is beyond my reach, to an idealized version of the world. I am so addicted to it that it causes constant anxiety, since the now never measures up to my idealized future, including my own being.
So I am waiting for a savior with all of you. I am in need of the Christ child to once again capture my being and make his home in me. I need the Christ child to reorient my vision to God’s own — to healing, wholeness, joy, beauty, new life. I need the Christ child to once again graft me to the community that continues to provide fertile ground for constant conversion — the church. I need the Christ child so that fruit can be born anew in me, through you, for the world.
I am so thankful in this season that though I fail, grace abounds. I am thankful for the ways that the community of believers continues to call me to new life, continues to remind me of Jesus. I am thankful that I have no excuses because though it is impossible for me to live into this re-orientation, I am able to do so because through God all things are possible.
May the fruit of our transformation, of changing our hearts and life, of allowing God to guide our being, become visible in the year ahead. May the story of Jesus that we will tell again remind us, guide us, convict us, and fill us with assurance and hope.
Keep watching, do not be afraid, do not despair, the savior is getting near!