John kept saying to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? ...Do not even think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones" (Luke 3:7,8).
John the Baptist’s call to repentance is the key to our preparation for Christmas. But that may seem to lack challenge for us. After all, we are decent people. We don’t get tripped up in the sins that trap everyone else.
The people who swarmed to the Jordan River to listen to John must have thought the same. They were the good people, the morally upright, the sabbath-faithful.
Yet John warned that they could not escape his call to repentance. “Do not even think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” Don’t think that just because you come from the proper bloodline and live up to certain standards that you are right with God. The truth is you remain “offspring of vipers” (Luke 3:8,7).
Perhaps we also must peer as deep into ourselves to see the reason John’s Advent call to repentance applies to us. Perhaps we need to look at the good-Christian sins we fall into. Here are three.
- Failure to share the good news of great joy that a Savior has been born; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10,11).
- Greed that makes it impossible to give unstintingly of all the resources our generous God has given to us.
- Selfishness that insists that our church must conduct worship and other ministry in ways that make us comfortable, even though that erects barriers for those who are outside our church.
The good people who came to John for a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins were no different spiritually than we are. We all have daily need for “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Before we can fully appreciate the good news our sins are taken away, we need to face the bad news that we have sins that need to be taken away. We need to face the fact that we are poor, miserable sinners. We need to recognize that we are sinners not only once in a while, but by nature.
For that reason we take to heart the first of Luther’s 95 Theses, “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”
It is then that the good news the Savior has been born in the city of David becomes great news. It is then that we must rejoice because “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).