7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax 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.” 10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[a] water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
When I first read this passage as part of our Advent devotional I didn’t really like it — thought it sounded a little scary – John sounded angry with the crowd. But when you reread it a few times – it’s really a great Christmas message. I think as Christians we all wonder sometimes “What should we do then?” The good news is that what He expects us to do isn’t a herculean task – the answer is right in front of us. I think what this is saying is that we should take some time to reflect upon our lives, assess what may be broken. What gifts do we have we can share? How are we using our power? Are we treating people in our daily lives with kindness, fairness and compassion? It’s about our behavior – how we’re living our lives… setting the example … perhaps this season we should take some time to think about John’s advice, and take some action – actually DO something and make some changes. That may be the best way to prepare to celebrate and honor Jesus’s birthday.