Advent Reading: Luke 3:7-8
“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” There’s an opening line to a memorable speech! In Luke 3 we read John the Baptist’s words to the crowds coming to be baptised by him. He had clearly never read “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. Especially the classic lesson #1 “Do Not Criticize, Condemn or Complain.”
Yet people were drawn to John’s message. The fierce tone lines up with his key message, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance”. Don’t say you are children of Abraham when you live like poisonous snakes. As people listened, they wondered if John might be God’s rescuer, the Messiah. It seemed the Messiah would proclaim a similar message. John says the Messiah’s baptism and judgement is even stronger. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
There are many heart-warming messages at Christmas time of Hope, Joy, Love, Peace. John the Baptist doesn’t start there. If John “warms” hearts, it is with the cleansing fire of repentance. He prepares his listeners to expect this cleansing fire will be stronger again with the coming Messiah.
“His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:17)
There are many who are sick of living under bondage, away from God, with a faith of half measure, in a world of compromised righteousness and justice. To these hearers, the Messiah’s powerful baptism and cleansing fire is not condemnation, it is good news.