This is the second in a series of Advent reflections on Luke 3:7-18. I used to commute to Chicago every week for seminary. I rarely needed to go down to the “miracle mile” on Michigan Avenue, but every time I did, there would be a guy talking about the end of the world. What would it look like today if John the Baptist was preaching his message in our town today?
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? Bear 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. Even 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.” – Luke 3:7-9 (NRSV)
Have you ever seen one of those sidewalk preachers? You know the ones I mean. They stand on a corner or at the train station and shout things like: “Repent! The end of the world is near!” or “You are a sinner – turn to Jesus and be saved!” Honestly, do they really think anyone is listening…
They kind of look like crazy people. Of course, I say that in love. I’m sure Jesus loves crazy people, too. But come on! Have you seen the guy outside the store here? His hair is all crazy. I don’t think he’s washed his clothes recently and it kind of looks like he slept in them. There isn’t anything about him that makes me want to get close or listen to what he has to say. It was all I could do to keep my distance. I couldn’t get in here fast enough!
I know we are supposed to go out and make disciples and all that – but really? Honestly, I’m a little embarrassed. After all, I’m a Christian. I don’t want people to think I’m like that! I go to a nice church. We sit quietly until we’re told to stand – you know, decently and in order. Everyone takes a shower before they come, for goodness sake! Every week we repent – but nobody is yelling at us or carrying signs. And we certainly don’t tell people they’re going to hell or the world is going to end. I mean, really, that’s just not very nice. I don’t think that’s what Jesus would do. It just makes me uncomfortable.
Anyway, I’ve got to go. My shopping list is long! ‘Tis the season!
What distracts us from John’s challenging message? What type of Christian do we want people to think we are? What type of Christian does Jesus want us to be?