The good news for the day, December 4
Second Sunday of Advent (4)
When John (the baptizer) saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You nest of snakes! Who has warned you about running away from the coming catastrophe? … Produce good fruit—evidence of your repentance…Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We belong to the family of Abraham.’ Because I am telling you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the ax bites at the root of the trees, so every tree that does not bear healthy fruit will be cut down and thrown into the bonfire. I am in fact baptizing you with water, for a change of life, but Someone coming after me is greater than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with a very different blast (“Spirit Holy”) and with fire. His winnowing tool is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn—the chaff he will burn with a fire that never goes out.” (Matthew 3)
The Good News is ALWAYS the coming of the “realm of what is right.”. It is here as you read and as I write. It calls you to change now—die and rise.
Baptism for John meant drowning—completely under water—in the River Jordan—from which you rose to a new life—dead and alive again. It is a change because without that change, you stay dead in spirit. The Holy Spirit—gust, gusto and guts —a forest fire—a tornado of wreckage—it is hard to convey the picture John is sketching—a Pentecost wind—a hurricane that destroys—and allows for complete re-building (of your life).
It means painful separation from your past, your bad habits, your cherished ways—into glory and good, into transformed joy and peace. From the cut-down tree a new one springs up. A new way of life is not the result of ritual baptism, but your commitment to kindness, otherness, forgiving and creating, humility and loving. Here it is! Jesus is waiting! It is not a matter of “belonging” (whether to the family of Abraham or your religion), but your heart of flesh, your open, new, welcoming heart.