December 16, 2018
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
The Good News Ax
It’s the third week of Advent. The kids are practicing their pageant, Christmas carols are playing nonstop everywhere we go, and we are waiting for that precious babe to be born in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. But just as we are settling into that saccharin scene of Christmas sweetness, John the Baptist shatters it with his talk of an ax lying at the base of the tree and an unquenchable fire.
John’s job is to give us a wake-up call: “People! The one you are waiting for is a whole lot more than just a cute little baby!” This Jesus for whom we wait is coming with power as sharp as an ax and as hot as fire, to prune away everything that holds us back from the fruit-bearing life we were born to express.
It may seem a bit too harsh and violent for our mid-Advent mood, but this ax is where things get good! Think of the things that prevent fruit from growing: guilt, shame, the hoarding of possessions, our fear that there isn’t enough, the disease of sin. All of this will be chopped away and burned, making space for life to grow.
Think of the ways God chops back that which keeps us from new growth. We may be steeped in all kinds of internal poisons, prone to believing ourselves unworthy. But at the communion table, God cuts through those lies and says, “No, this is my body given for you.” Through baptism we are equipped with words that can cut like a knife and truth as consuming as unquenchable fire: “You are God’s child.” Cleansed, nourished, and pruned, we can recognize ourselves as God’s worthy and beloved children and begin bearing fruit.
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