RCL Year C Advent 3
Zephaniah 3:14-20, Canticle 9, Philippians 4:4-7, Saint Luke 3:7-18

If you look at the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, you will find Saint Paul traveling from Corinth to Ephesus where he finds followers of Saint John the Baptist. He asks them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” “No,” they replied, “we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Paul says, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” At last, Saint Paul baptizes them in the name of the Lord Jesus, and then he lays hands on them whereupon the Holy Spirit comes upon them.[1] And we have the pattern of Baptism and Confirmation that exists in the Episcopal Church to this day.

I draw your attention to this to amplify the Gospel today. While it is clear that John prepares the way for Jesus, he has a distinctive message that prepares the way for Jesus. He tells the crowds that follow him that whoever has two coats must share with those who have none. He tells tax collectors to collect no more than the amount prescribed. He tells soldiers not to extort money from anyone and to be satisfied with their wages. In short, John demands an ethical and a moral conversion that readies people for the salvation that Jesus later will bring. Giving up extortion, blackmail, and greediness opens people up to receive the kingdom that Jesus brings and preaches.

The line between John’s ethic and Jesus’ salvation remains very fine. One is not the other, and this Advent I am pondering the relationship of the two. I am pondering the progress from John’s ethic to receiving Jesus as our Lord and Savior. I am suggesting to you that if you want to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior that you will first put behind you the slavery to sin and wrongdoing that itself keeps you away from seeing the face of Jesus. John the forerunner and Jesus the Savior have set this progression as the road we are to travel.

As you make your way to the crib, as you ask God that Jesus be born in your heart, do not forget the journey that lies before you. And do not forget the loving and encouraging arms awaiting you.


[1] Acts 19:1-6.