“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear 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. Even now the ax 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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers 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.”
John the Baptist cries out to those coming by the banks of the Jordan to bear fruit worthy of repentance. There is an immediacy to his words and his cry for those in that time and place and for us here. Advent is a season where we evaluate our lives in light of what is coming. John knew the stakes of what the kingdom of God demands of us. We either enter into the reality of what the kingdom demands of us or we walk away. For John, there is no middle ground. Repent or not. Serve those on the margins or not. Look at the systems of repression and bring about justice, or not. This is the reality of the cry from the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. Do we commit or do we walk away? There is an immediacy to our response that we need not forget.