Friday December 14

Luke 3:7–18 “John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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. 9Even now the axe 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.’ 10 And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ 11In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ 12Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’13He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’14Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’ 15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ 18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.”

We usually associate grace with feeling good. Nevertheless, grace is actually the presence of the
Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Spirit is like fire, which gives off heat, but also burns up anything that
cannot withstand it. If water symbolizes God’s presence in creation, then fire symbolizes God’s presence as Spirit. Thus, John’s baptism is associated with water and Jesus’ baptism is associated with the “Holy Spirit and fire.” As the Messiah, Jesus ushers in the anticipated age of the Spirit—an age when “all flesh” will see and experience God’s presence without being destroyed. Baptized into Jesus’ death and life, we have received the Holy Spirit. Like the fire in Moses’ burning bush, the Spirit now burns within us without consuming us. Yet this Spirit also burns with unquenchable fire everything in our lives that cannot withstand God’s presence. Can we receive this as “good news”?

Dear Jesus, we thank you for giving us the same Holy Spirit who empowered your life. Help us to receive as “good news” the ways the Spirit burns up everything in our lives that cannot withstand God’s reign of justice and mercy. Amen.

Advent Photo Challenge:  Take a picture each day during Advent and share on your social media platform of choice with #stpauladvent
Today’s picture inspiration: Spirit