Monday after the Second Sunday after Christmas
Scripture: St. Luke 3:1-9 (NKJV)
1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 while Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of God came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'”
7 Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 9 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Wrath is coming. St. John the Baptist tells us so. The Lord describes this day in Malachi 4:1, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up.” On the Last Day the wicked, all the unbelieving, and the faithless will suffer the consequences for their sin.
There are two responses to the Baptist’s preaching. We can, like some of the multitude at the Jordan, rely upon our ancestry, our heritage, and our imagined identity. We may not be “children of Abraham” genetically, but the flesh tempts us to rely upon our church attendance, our churchly upbringing, or our outwardly good civil life. When we respond to the news of the day of wrath to come with our own merits and worthiness, the Baptist’s preaching condemns us for relying upon ourselves.
The only way to properly prepare for the coming day of wrath is to “bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Bearing fruit worthy of repentance means that repentance is present to bear those fruits. John presents us with this message: turn from trusting your own intellect, cunning, reputation, or worthiness. Turn from these and receive baptism for the remission of all your sins. Believe the Gospel and receive its benefits.
Only in repentance and faith is a person truly prepared for the day of wrath. To the faithful baptized the day of wrath becomes the day of our redemption, in which our Lord Jesus Christ will fulfill all the promises He makes to us in His Gospel, completing our salvation.