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Preparing to Meet Jesus

'Giving Hands and Red Pushpin' photo (c) 2009, Artotem - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

[Editor's note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. The reading for this post is Luke 3:7-18. Keep reading Bread Blog for more Advent reflections.]   

By Rev. Dr. Rick Snyder

In every church I've served, a ritual begins early in Advent—the Worship Committee begins fielding the question: "When are we going to start singing Christmas carols?" When we try to explain the significance of Advent—that Advent is about spiritual disciplines, self-examination, repentance, and most of all heartfelt preparation for the miracle of incarnation—eyes tend to glaze over. Such is our cultural context, even in central Illinois. As one congregant put it, "I'm not into this morbid introspection."

So we're not really prepared for John the Baptist stalking out of the wilderness, telling the curious crowds, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance ... the axe is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." Have a nice day!
 
We can't hide behind our religious credentials, ethnic heritage or baptism. For John, what is needed is repentance, a radical turning from our sin and our sins. John knows each of us has our temptations—to hoard, to misuse power, to give into greed, to lord over, or to use others, especially those whose voices have long been silent. We're called to repent and to demonstrate that repentance by bearing visible fruit, clear evidence of God's love and justice.
 
I am fortunate to have just seen such fruit in the ministry of our sister church in Havana, Cuba, located in a gritty, working-class neighborhood. The church offers clean drinking water, exercise and tai chi classes, a feeding program for the elderly, medicinal herbs and spices, a clothing distribution, monthly classical concerts, Al-Anon classes for their youth, and neighborhood dances—all of this from a congregation of 135 members.
 
Strange that "the least" seem to have the least difficulty being generous. And I think they understand the true meaning of Advent!
 
Rev. Dr. Rick Snyder (SFTS Master of Divinity/Master of Arts '74 and SFTS Doctor of Ministry '79) is a San Francisco Theological Seminary trustee.

 

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