A Christmas Special

If you want, you can watch Christmas specials pretty much non-stop at this time of year.  There are even networks that devote their entire schedule to Christmas shows.  I challenge you to find one about John the Baptist and his message.  

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”  It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:  A voice of one crying out in the desert,  Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.  And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.  Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.  I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand.  He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”  Matthew 3:1-12

Many people were drawn to John the Baptist in spite of his "unusual" appearance.  It was his message they came to hear.  Those who sought baptism for the purpose of true repentance had appropriately "acknowledged their sins" and were baptized.  However the Pharisees and Sadducees were singled out by John as perhaps having the wrong motives.  John's challenge to the elite of Israel points to their need to prove that they have truly repented of their sins.  He informs them that it is not their familial lineage that matters.  It is the production of fruit that matters.  There is no automatic pass into heaven.  John made it clear, true repentance must be demonstrated by the fruit that follows.   

Then, after making his point, John makes his big announcement.  There is another One coming!  And it is He who separates the true wheat, the fruit, from the pretender, the chaff.  It is the repentant soul that differentiates the two.  John the Baptist's message wasn't an easy, feel-good message.  

He is telling us that we have to intentionally seek to pursue something that isn't always pleasant.  It might even be harder than finding a Christmas special about John the Baptist.  However, we do so because we await the One who comes after him.  Imagine how special it will be when Jesus does return!