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Advent Devotional for Saturday, December 13
• Luke 3:7-18
I don't think I want to “friend” John the Baptist, even if some people do think he might be the awaited Messiah. The “good news” sounds horribly onerous.
It must be said that, in answer to the multitudes, and the soldiers and tax collectors among them, his instructions are manageable and righteous. I can do those works, at least some of the time.
What struck me this time when I read through this passage and carried it around with me for a few days, was the phrase “the axe is laid to the root.” I imagine digging away at the base of the tree, exposing roots thick and tough stretching out into the surrounding soil, rooting out the rocks that dull the blade, and swinging away.
This is quite a bit more than being fair in our tax collections and sharing our coats. Those are the things that we must do, but down in the roots, down deep in the loam —this has to do with our essential being, our way in the world, not just our acts in the world.
In these days when we are hearing so much about racial inequality, income inequity, fear of immigrants and Muslims, and other issues of seemingly vast proportions, we know that sharing our coats and being honest in our money exchanges is not enough. There is something much deeper afoot here, something in the roots, in the darkness beneath the sod, among the roots that feed everything above. When we hear, as we all do, the blaming—j’accuse!— most of us are hard-pressed to know what to do. This little meditation is not going to answer that question—sorry. I'm still hunting myself (in both senses). But I hear John the Baptist. He tells the multitudes what to do, but then points to the roots, the seed. All the people question in their hearts, but they are questioning the wrong thing. They are wondering who he is when they should be wondering who they are.
John the Baptist is indeed preaching the good news, but I’m still not going to “friend” him.
Oh God, light in the darkness, shine and shadow, lead me deep, deep into the depths from which all life comes, all thoughts arise, all passions burst forth, and all love ignites. Shine your lamp in the cave of treasures that is my soul, for there are the right questions for which my life is the answer. Amen.
Associate Professor of Comparative Religion
For the glory of God and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary is a seminary in the Presbyterian-Reformed tradition whose mission is to educate and equip individuals for the ordained Christian ministry and other forms of Christian service and leadership; to employ its resources in the service of the church; to promote and engage in critical theological thought and research; and to be a winsome and exemplary community of God's people.
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