HOPE... that no matter how much preparation we make, no matter how high our expectations for the "perfect" holiday can be dashed in a split second when the family members enter into the equation, no matter how much we spend, etc. JESUS is the reason for the season and upon Him, we can always count!
The relationships with people (and animals) for whom I care deeply.
Remember? Our relationship with Jesus is what this is all about.
Yet, much like comedian Steven Colbert, John is able to offend everyone. In today's lesson, he strikes out at the Pharisees and Sadducees who represent the religious establishment. John scolds their ethnic pride and lack of good works. He pushes all who visit to not just rest on their lineage from Abraham but to produce good fruit for others now. Through his rantings, John's excitement focused on the important event – that is, the coming of Christ. John displayed enthusiasm simultaneously with impatience for those who just didn't get the whole baptism thing. Like Isaiah, John had his patience tested, yet remained faithful to the vision and hope for a future of peace.
I find it intriguing that such a rough man draws the people. John has no agent, the people receive only a dunking in the river
[hold up cookie tray]
Like our cookie walk today, we all bring our own different colors, shapes, aromas and flavors to the gathering. Consider for a moment how many have labored to bring the finished product to Holy Trinity today. The spectacular bakers among you, and also the cow and her milk, the birds who scatter the seeds, horses who may still pull the plow, the planter, harvester, packager and grocer. And, then the finished product is produced by the labor of the loving hands and hearts here.
This cookie is not merely limited to the labor of humans for animals, too, have made their contribution to these delectable creations. With the peace of God in our hearts, sown by the Holy Spirit through the witnesses of many others, what other "fruits" might we be able to produce?
Last week, Jeffrey Drake from Metro Chicago Synod spoke to us about the Central Diocese of the Southern Africa Synod. He said that one of the things that most touched him personally was Bishop Phaswana's peaceful, forgiving attitude toward the very government who had imprisoned and tortured him. As the Bishop explained, forgiveness is necessary when the priority is to stay alive and keep the people alive. He had prepared his heart for the advent of Christ and was able to forgive others even in the most inhumane circumstances…Just as Isaiah and John were clearly focused on the future hope that the Messiah would bring, Bishop Phaswana's vision was focused on the hope that Christ can offer for peace.
Today John calls us into Jesus' presence...to be present with Christ is to be planted and watered so that our fruits may flourish. We come to Christ through the waters of baptism...there we have been welcomed in grace and received the Holy Spirit so our lives produce "fruit worthy of repentance". We have the spiritual confidence to empower us to work for peace in this world…God's creation. As we have already been welcomed into Christ's church, so we too will one day be gathered together into God's granary.
We are asked to prepare... to make the road straight for the promised Messiah who will lead us into God's promised peace. Yet John's words also ring out as a call for us to bear the fruits of peace. We can only produce such fruit if we are planted in the soil of God's word and blessed with the waters of God's grace.
God of hope and peace, you have given us identity as your children to prepare us to do your work, your mission. You have asked us to prepare ourselves…to bring peace to ourselves…to those broken relationships…to those different from us…to prepare missions that are intended to bring peace to the world…to your creation.
In the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Saviour and Lord,