Friday, December 7, 2018
by Allysen Schaaf
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut
down and thrown into the fire.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do
likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John,
whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Hymn 88: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
At this point in December, the season of Advent has converged with the darkening days and colder
temperatures here in the United States. Add in the temptation to be at every party, the gifts we “need”
to buy and the “holly jolly” Christmas music playing everywhere and you’ve got a conflicting array of
When we sing the refrain, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel,” the minor tones
seem at odds with the light hearted Christmas music we hear on the radio. It seems like we should be
singing with joyful exclamation as we get ready for Jesus’ birth. However, the tone of this Advent hymn
leads us into a minor key that sings about a hope which has been promised but not yet been fulfilled.
We know Christ is coming, but it is not quite time to celebrate his birth. We know Christ is coming to
bring peace and joy, but we still have work to do here on earth to help make this a reality. Advent gives
us good news to look forward to but this lives in tension with the things in our lives and our world that
still feel exiled from the peace that the Savior promises to bring.
As we sing this Advent and pray for God to bind “All peoples in one heart and mind” and for “envy, strife
and discord” to cease, let us find comfort in the truth that we don’t have to be “there” yet. We can
reside in the discomfort, struggle and gloominess of the world and know that the day is coming when we
WILL rejoice. Christ comes to bring light INTO the darkness. So as the days darken and the hype of the
season tries to make us feel like we aren’t enough, let us remember God’s presence walking with us in
the darkness, leading us out of exile to a place where all the world is filled with “Heaven’s peace.”