Gospel Lesson for Sunday Dec 8 2019
3Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
“THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’”
4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father;’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
A couple of weeks ago my daughter said something that stuck with me. I asked her when she was going to put up her Christmas decorations and she answered “I can’t put them up until I deep clean. Otherwise I’m just putting stuff on top of dust and that’s disgusting.” To be honest, It stuck with me because I hadn’t really thought about deep cleaning. I was content to just dust away the obvious and deal with the rest some other day, hiding it under Christmas décor. But as I read the lessons for this week it occurred to me that her words were a perfect illustration. John the Baptist called people to a baptism of repentance, preparing the way for the Lord’s baptism with fire and Spirit. Just like my daughter, he was getting at some deep cleaning before the arrival of Jesus.
I stand firmly on our tradition of infant baptism, not to the exclusion of adult baptism, but as a tradition that speaks to the free gift of grace and mercy and the Holy Spirit bestowed on us by a loving God. I was baptized as an infant and affirmed my baptism as a 9th grader as many a Lutheran has done. I love it when we renew our baptismal vows in worship and when we are occasionally sprinkled by the assistant ministers or pastors on special occasions. I will treasure the memory of my baptism in the Jordan River. But I need to remind myself every day that I need cleaning up.
Let me be clear. In no way am I saying that I have done the work of deep cleaning. What I am saying though, is that no matter how dirty we are, we can come to God and be cleaned. As we share in Christ’s death at baptism, sins, like the dust, are washed away. We cannot hide the grime under a pretty Christian manger-shaped decoration. We are re-born clean, washed in the water and the blood. All that I can do is humbly repent and, with the help of God, strive to do God’s will, trying not to resist the work of the Holy Spirit.
Please permit me to take a verse out of context just for its beautiful imagery as a reminder of God’s work. Our Psalm this week is Ps 72:1-7. Verse 6 says, “May he come down like rain upon the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.” This rain nourishes the earth. Jesus is the living water and if we partake of it we will never thirst. But I couldn’t help but think of being sprinkled as a reminder of baptism or standing under a full shower of warm summer rain and being cleansed and refreshed.
As we make our Christmas preparations, let’s remember more than the birth of a king, let’s also remember the death of the one who came to deep clean the world.
e-Devotion author: Bobbie Tomasek.
If you are interested in becoming an e-Devotion author, please contact Pastor Dan Hoeger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602.866.9191.
The e-Devotion can also be viewed on the All Saints website.