Luke 3.7-14The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answers them with a promise: ‘I baptise you with water but one more powerful than I will come’ – the Messiah, the Christ will come.
But in that waiting time John challenges the people who ask ‘what shall we do’? As Baptists we know that our faith can never be second hand – God has no grandchildren. We have to make our own decision about faith – believer’s baptism is the outward sign that we have taken that step to become God’s children. A baptism of repentance for John is a radical examination and retrospection of one’s personal and public life. Repentance is only a part of the life of faith and therefore needs to be complemented with a reorientation. John advocates that our faith is not just about belief but, like James, about putting that that faith into action. In other words ‘faith without works is dead’. So in the waiting time of Advent we need to remind ourselves that the Christian life is about giving and sharing, about generosity and honesty.
Did John get everything right about the coming Messiah? John said that he was not worthy to untie the thongs of the sandals of the Christ. Little did he know that Jesus would stoop to wash the disciples’ feet, to demonstrate that he had come as the ‘suffering servant’ described by Isaiah, not as the conquering hero, that people were expectantly hoping for. John described a judgemental Messiah who would separate the wheat from the chaff, not a Christ who would say ‘O Jerusalem, how often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing; in other words, a Christ who demonstrated that the Christian faith is about showing and sharing the love of God with those who need care and protection in our world.