Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
Chapter 3In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, Verse 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." Verse 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'" Verse 4Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Verse 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, Verse 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Verse 7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Verse 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Verse 9Do not presume 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. Verse 10Even 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. Verse 11"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Verse 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
“The kingdom of heaven has come near!” John the Baptist’s message is urgent, telling people that now is the time to pay attention, now is the time to change. He is equally clear about who people should be preparing for so that they know the appropriate activities. When my daughter was young, in one of my less-than-stellar parenting moments, I said that Christmas wouldn’t come if her room didn’t get picked up and she didn’t go to sleep. My very young theologian reminded me that Jesus would indeed come, and he probably didn’t care if her room was picked up! The kingdom of heaven and Jesus continue to draw near to us in our daily lives. What do we urgently need to pay attention to, and what activities ought we be engaged in so that we are focused on welcoming Jesus into our lives rather than satisfying our own desires for perfection, organization, status, or tradition?
Jesus, you come into our lives desiring our time and attention for you and for our neighbor. As the busyness of Christmas preparations swirls around us, continue to remind and show us how to engage in these activities in a way that brings your welcome and love to those we encounter each day. Amen.