Advent Reflections: John the Baptist and the Kingdom of God (5)

This is the fifth in a series of Advent reflections on Luke 3:7-18.

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” – Luke 3:15-17 (NRSV)

Even though John is talking about repentance and judgment, the people were filled with expectation. I love that. It tells me a lot about the people who came out into the wilderness to hear and see John.

These people knew the story of their faith. As Christians, we give “the Jews” a lot of grief for not recognizing their Messiah. But they were looking for him – they expected him to come. They knew that when the Messiah came, there would be judgment. This is the message of Christ the King Sunday two weeks ago: God will shepherd the flock with justice.

Better is a single day in your courtyards than a thousand days anywhere else! – Psalm 84:10 (CEB)

The thing about judgment and justice is that I really like them when I’m the captive that will be set free or the occupied nation oppressed by the Empire – but they make me uncomfortable when I look in the mirror (or look at my heart) and see that I may be keeping someone else captive or contributing to maintaining the power of the Empire.

  • The truth is, I want Jesus to be my Savior but I don’t necessarily want Jesus to be Lord over every part of my life.
  • I want Jesus to judge the injustice I see in this world but I do not want Jesus to judge the injustice I commit or stand by and let happen.
  • I want Jesus to be present in my time of need, but I don’t want to be the presence of Jesus in the time of someone else’s need.

I want justice without judgment and comfort without inconvenience. But these people made their way to the Jordan River to listen to sermons on repentance and judgment. Why? Because they were filled with the expectation that the promise of justice and salvation were near fulfillment.

I’d like to be filled with this type of expectation. I’d like to trust God enough that I can acknowledge my sin, repent with honesty and act with justice. And live with hope, peace, joy and love.

What are you filled with when you think about Jesus’ return? Does your expectation look more like joyous hope or foreboding?

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