John the Baptist said,
8 “Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”
Faith is an inheritance handed down to us by those who went before. There is a richness in knowing where we come from. Even the Bible argues this point (2 Timothy 1:5).
But it’s not enough to trade on what our ancestors have done. Every generation must claim, explore, and then live the faith for themselves.
John the Baptist, for all his rough-around-the-edges harshness, was simply stating facts: It’s not about what your parents, your grandparents, or your great-great-grandparents believed or did. It’s not about your lineage or pedigree. It’s about what God is doing in you and through you right now. That’s what matters.
We want to believe that a modest investment of ourselves will do the trick, and that we can rely on history for the rest. Every year, when we arrive at this moment, we find John the Baptist standing in the doorway of Advent and reminding us that it’s not enough. We must bear fruit that witnesses to our faith.
Yesterday’s fruit is not enough. Each one of us is called to be part of what God is doing today, right now, in this moment. “God with us,” Emmanuel, wasn’t just a one-time thing that happened on Christmas so many years ago. No, Emmanuel means that God is always here, that Christ is always working and always calling us to join in his work.
by Joe Monahan
For Pondering & Prayer
It’s easy to read this passage and be struck by the emphasis on works – to feel that we have something to prove for God. That’s not the point. We don’t earn salvation through what we do. Instead, John’s words are meant to call us to ask whether we’ve been complacent in the living of our faith. How much thought have we given to the good we’re actually doing in the world? Remember that God doesn’t save us THROUGH good works. Instead, God saves us FOR good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). With that in mind, let’s recommit to bearing good fruit for Jesus today.
Prayer: Holy Lord, where I have become complacent, help me to recommit. Where I have become insensitive, soften my heart. Where I have become cynical, help me to reclaim hope. Today, I ask you to help me bear fruit for your kingdom, fruit that will last. Amen.