WelCom December 2022
Second Sunday of Advent – Matthew 3:1-12
1 John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, 2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’
3 This was the man that the prophet Isaiah had spoken of when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’
4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and as they were baptised by him in the Jordan River they acknowledged 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 coming retribution? 8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance, 9 and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” because I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. 10 Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 ‘I am baptising you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
12 ‘His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’
John the Baptist, today’s old-timer
In our reading today [Matthew 3:1-16] we have two extremes. John the Baptist, the last of the Old-Testament prophets, and Jesus who preached the new Kingdom of God through his apostles.
People wondered about John the Baptist. He came from the desert, he did not eat bread or drink wine but ate natural food – wild locusts and honey, as it fell from God’s hands. He did not wear the clothes of the day. Instead, he dressed in camel skin with a leather girdle around his waist. His teaching was hard hitting. He announced without hesitation, that God’s judgement was very near – that sinners would be cut down like a tree and thrown into a fire. He may not have been clear about those who were not converted but was quite clear about those who were not baptised. Their future would be God’s wrath, God’s anger, God’s fury, and God’s vengeance. His message was sombre and grim, dark and heavy.
Jesus understood John the Baptist and went up to John to be baptised. However, John then became frightened. He said to Jesus, ‘No not by me!’ Jesus said, ‘Oh yes, by you!’ John then baptised Jesus, who became inspired by the prophetic impulse of John the Baptist, and rewarded by the Holy Spirit who came down on him.
John was right according to the Old Testament. After John, the Old Testament closed. Up until then it was ‘the Law and the Prophets’. Since then, it has been the ‘Kingdom of God’.
John lamented. Jesus rejoiced. John sang a funeral dirge, Jesus an Alleluia verse. John refused to eat bread. Jesus broke the bread. John never drank wine. Jesus turned all the water at the wedding into wine. Where John warned people, Jesus invited people.
Let us be grateful then for the New Testament. We have escaped the days when John the Baptist lived. Jesus, by His death on the cross has assured our salvation.
Tom Gibson is a retired dairy farmer and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Stratford, Taranaki.