8 December 2019 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

In this season of Advent we read and meditate on the Biblical passages that exhort us to prepare for both the celebration of Christ's birth in Bethlehem and His return in glory at the end of time as the Judge of all.

In today's gospel text, Matthew (3:1-12), we read of the work of John the Baptist who called on people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was near. Now you can imagine the reaction of the Jews when they heard John preaching a message of repentance. They were coming themselves across as being very religious and superior to others, but John called them a "brood of vipers", that is, "satan's off-spring", or "children of the devil". Why did John call they in this way? The Pharisees and Sadducees imagined that they would be exempted from God's wrath, on the grounds of their being the children of Abraham, but many times in the past they had failed to live up to their obligations according to the covenant with God and so were sent into exile for their sins. John went on to demand that they repent and "produce good fruit as evidence of repentance". John's point was that it was not just good enough to be born into the chosen race, Abraham's family, but one must also follow in the footsteps of the obedient faith of Abraham and repent of sin and change one's life. If they refused to repent and bear good fruit, John warned that they would be thrown into the fire as a punishment. After saying this John used an analogy and said that the Messiah would not only "gather His wheat into his barn, but the chaff He will burn in unquenchable fire". This means that at His second coming, Christ will allow repentant converts into His Kingdom but will destroy the unrepentant people with fire.

In today's text John is revealing couple powerful lessons for us:

1. All of us are capable of knowing right from wrong and the way we should live. We know sin exists and what it is like. Yet we often deliberately do what we know is sin. If someone confronts us about our sin, we attempt to justify ourselves. Self-justification is one of the biggest problems many of us face today. We justify our sinful actions by saying, "There are others who are far worse that me," "The world is like that", "God does not see sin in His children", and so on.

2. As we prepare ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ, we have another opportunity to heed the call of John the Baptist for repentance and be saved. As long as any sin, whether big or small, whether overt or covert, reigns in our lives, we cannot experience God's total love.