By Rev. Pamela Hogewoning
Daily Lectionary reading: Psalm 146:5-10; 1 Samuel 2:1-8; Luke 3:1-18
Selected passage for reflection: Luke 3:1-18
Luke 3.1-18 NLT
It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Trachonitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. 2 Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. 3 Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 4 Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,
“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!
5 The valleys will be filled,
and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
and the rough places made smooth.
6 And then all people will see
the salvation sent from God.’”
7 When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. 9 Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.” 10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?” 11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” 12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.” 14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” 15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.
For me Advent has become an opportunity to audit the expenditure of my mental, physical, and emotional energy. What is taking up space in my head and in my heart? What is taking up space on my calendar? This is a sobering process. Often this examination reveals that what and who I say are my priorities are not getting the corresponding amount of my attention and energy. I am confronted with the inconsistency between my intentions or desires with my actions. I do not think I am alone in this experience. Many of us go from day to day not considering if the way in which I lived out my day lines up with my priorities and responsibilities. We are consistently inundated with opportunities—good and bad—that sway us from our priorities or take over our time and focus. Even spending the time to consider what to say yes and no to eats up this precious resource of space in our lives. This is why I take Advent as an opportunity to ask myself some hard questions. In whom or in what am I investing my time? How does this line up with my faith, my family, myself, my work? After this point of examination, I can ask, where do I go from here?
The answer to this question is on display in the life of John the Baptist. I am challenged by his message and his life. He lived in a way that prioritized the message he was given to preach and lived in a way pointed toward the coming of the Messiah. He called people to repentance, to turn away from distraction and to turn to the Messiah who is to come. John preached it and he lived it. His life was void of certain comforts and niceties that I would deem essentials. The man wore camels’ hair and ate locus. As I sit in my nice warm home, I am not suggesting eating locus. However, I am honest with myself and need to repent from all the excess that is taking up space on my calendar, time in my thoughts, and room in my heart. This time of repentance looks like actively saying no to the excess in my life so that I can put the fullest amount of my time and energy into what counts. When I do this, I can enter the season of Advent with a keen awareness of what God is doing in my life and in the world. There’s room and awareness.
In her book, Anonymous, Alicia Brett Chole presents the idea of alert availability as a posture during seasons of waiting. Advent is a season of waiting. John the Baptist embodies the posture of alert availability in a season of waiting for Jesus to come to earth. We have the same calling, to be alertly available to the continual coming of Jesus Christ. Alert and available to participate in his coming into our lives, the lives of our families, into our communities, into our work places, and into this world.
This scripture passage explicitly warns us that Jesus’ coming brings with it a “cleaning house” dynamic. Are you willing to do that work now in your own life? What are the excesses in your life that draw your time, attention, and resources away from Jesus? What is he inviting you to let go of and what to grab on to?
Lord, forgive me for allowing (name the specific things that have been identified) to take up space and distract me from you. Reset my focus so that I am alertly available to you and your coming in my day to day activities as well as my long term goals and desires. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
About the Author
Pamela Carlson Hogewoning lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband and three kids. As an ordained minister, she served in pastoral ministry for ten years. Recently, Pamela started her role as Chaplain of a Provincial Correctional Centre where she cares for the spiritual needs of inmates. Pamela enjoys the beauty of northern Ontario and for fun, she and a friend host the Hogs and Rope podcast.