Take the opportunity to read the text - St. Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist is certainly a colorful kind of guy. For some he was an embarrassment. For others he was offensive and a threat. But for everyone who heard him his message rang true: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is near at hand.”
Repent! What does this word mean? The Greek word that stands behind this English word is the word: metanoia – and it literally means to turn around and go in a different direction. The English word itself comes from a French word – repense – which means to re-think. John’s call to those who heard (and hear) his message is for them to look at their lives; to take stock of their relationships with God and with others and to re-think the priorities they have set, the choices they have made and they way they are in relationship with God; and then, aided by the Holy Spirit, to confess, receive absolution and to turn around and go in another direction. The essence of John’s teaching is this: The Kingdom of God is come into our midst, as a child of God you are a citizen of the Kingdom and you are called to act like one. Do you?
No wonder Herodias wanted John’s head. Who among us wants to hear that the priorities we have set and the choices we have made and the way we have chosen to live our lives is not responsible or responsive to our calling to be Children of God? I don’t. I am very comfortable, thank you very much, John! I don’t want to re-think and I don’t want to go in any other directions from the one I am already on. Besides, I have Abraham as my father, Christ as my savior, I have done all these wonderful things in the past and I am important? Doesn’t all that count for something?!?
“Do not presume to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our Father… God can raise children of Abraham from these very stones!”
At the time of John and Jesus, one’s identity as a child of Abraham was very, very important. Matthew even acknowledges this in the first verse of chapter 1 as he begins the Genealogy with the affirmation that Jesus was a Son of Abraham. But then, we come to chapter 3 and John knocks that support away. It doesn’t matter, says John. Once we have become a follower of Christ, once we have become a citizen of the Kingdom then all of those things with which we prop ourselves up have lost their meaning. What matters is how we act and how we respond to God’s call.
Advent is a time of waiting – we anticipate and wait for the remembrance of the birth of Christ at Christmas; and we anticipate and wait for that day when Christ will come again and bring the fullness of the Kingdom into being. At the moment, the kingdom has come into our midst but it is incomplete and our call is to be about the work of the kingdom. And the work of the kingdom consists of this: allowing the love and grace of Christ to flow through us. We cannot do this on our own. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to guide us and to open our hearts. We need to repent – to re-think our relationships with God and others and then allow the Spirit to turn us around and move us in some new and different directions.