We’re all in this together – Reflection for Advent 3 12th December 2021

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 axe 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.

Luke 3: 7-18

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Luke tells us that the crowds went out to John. Most of us would cross the street to avoid him, these guys went out of their way to hear John. They went from the relative comfort and safety of the city into the wild, dangerous desert only to be called a brood of vipers! They left homes and families to be called a bunch of evil sinners and commanded to repent now or face hell and eternal damnation! And they went into the desert for that? We need to make allowances for John’s sense of urgency. Like many of his time, he thought the day of judgement was imminent. Here I want to thank Nikki for reminding us that yes, we will be judged, but our God will judge with love, mercy and compassion. John may not get an A-star by today’s preaching standards, but he passed where it really mattered, he pointed people to Jesus. In His life, death and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled all that John and the other prophets foretold. He died that we may all have a level playing field, to use the language of Isaiah, “Every valley raised up, every mountain laid low”. A fair start in life for everyone. A roof over our heads, food, drink, medicine and warmth. And yet, here we are, 2000 years later, and still people starve, still people suffer and die. We still have homeless and needy people on our streets. It doesn’t have to be this way. I firmly believe – like another prophet – that the greatest miracles happen not by power, not by might, but by God’s Spirit touching people’s hearts. (Zechariah 4) Last Sunday we talked about modern- day prophets, people who love God and show His love in their lives. So let me end with an example.

As some of you know, our daughter Alison lives in Glasgow, and before COVID we’d go there two/three times a year. On one of our visits, we were strolling down Buchannan Street when we heard a man’s voice calling out Joan’s name. He ran across the street and hugged her. He turned out to be one of Joan’s ex-clients at “Somewhere to Go”, a day-centre for homeless and vulnerable people in Weston-super-Mare. Time and again this guy crashed and time and again Joan and her team helped him back to his feet. Now back in his hometown and clean for 6 months, he said that the Lord had “softened his heart”. He had a job, a girlfriend and a future. I took a photo of him with Joan to send back to his mates in Weston. As we parted, he put his arm around her and with a tear in his eye he said, “Thank you for not giving up on me”.

Please, never think you can’t make a difference. Sign petitions, buy ethically, think ecologically, give generously – even if that’s just a smile or a hug. Because as David Cameron once said, “we’re all in this together”. And the most wonderful news of all is that we are not alone – we are in this with the Son of God. The mountains of injustice are being lowered. The deep valleys of despair raised. There’s a long way to go and there’s no time for complacency, but listen to me dear prophets, you can and will make a difference, if you continue to do what you do in the name of, and with the help of the One Who took it all on His shoulders – and conquered over it.

Rev’d Geoff Eales

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