“What then should we do?”
  Luke 3:10

Fr. Anthony Harewood

Toady’s gospel reading presents a part of the proclamation of John the Baptist concerning the kingdom of heaven. Scripture tells us that John was the forerunner for Christ and that he was seen as the prophet whom Isaiah referred to when he said, “A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” [Is. 40: 3] John was viewed as this voice, a voice calling the hearers or the people to repentance, a voice calling for a change in the lives of the people.

As the voice proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of heaven, John preached of a baptism of water for the forgiveness of sins. This baptism of water was seen as a washing away of sins, a complete purification rite within the Jewish tradition. This rite bore witness to the need for cleansing on the part of the individual before entering the presence of God or being reconciled to God. It was a rite that was symbolic of the ‘old self’ being washed away and a ‘new self’ being reconciled to God.

Repentance was at the heart of John’s message to the people; a message that called for a change in their minds and practices to focusing more on the ‘will’ of God while looking forward to the coming Messiah. So as the people longed for a Messiah, for someone to deliver them from their hardships, many of them on hearing the proclamation of John sought to be baptized by him.

Therefore, as the message of repentance was heard and received by the people, we are told that they went out to be baptized by John. But John would make it abundantly clear to them that his baptism was only the beginning of greater things to come. For the Messiah to whom he was preparing the way for would give a more powerful baptism, a baptism of the spirit. John would further challenge them to change their way of living and bear fruit worthy of repentance, instead of just resting on their laurels and claiming Abraham as their ancestor. For to be contented to claim Abraham as their ancestor was not enough for sharing in the kingdom of God.

In response to John’s admonition and his challenge to them to change their ways, the people would then ask the question; “What then should we do?” To this question John would respond by telling them about right living based on a sincere search for God’s ‘will’. This right living was one that would embrace and witness to the love of God, self and neighbour and resulting in relationships that would be sincere and built on love, care and compassion.

As we continue through this season of Advent, this season of preparation for the Christmas season we too should be challenged by the words of John calling us as Christians to repentance, to a positive change in our lives that would be worthy of our calling as servants of God and followers of Christ. This season should afford us the opportunity to really reflect on our lives and search for God’s ‘will’ for our lives.

It is in recognizing the need to prepare and seizing the opportunity to examine ourselves through prayer and serious reflection that the celebration of the Christmas season should become more meaningful to us as a people and indeed as Christians. For it is in examining ourselves and making the necessary changes that we as Christians with pure minds and hearts would be able to truly celebrate Christmas in its fullness as agents of love, peace and joy in the world.

As children of the new covenant, rallying under the banner of Christianity, and being baptized not only with water but also experiencing the baptism of the spirit through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ we should be constantly seeking the ‘will’ of God and making the necessary changes to our lives. So the question from our text remains very relevant for us today; “What then should we do?”

John’s response to this question should serve as our guide as we are encouraged to seek positive change. Positive changes that should see us experiencing and sharing in a spiritual renewal built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ, the Prince of peace who remains for all humanity the perfect example of love, care and compassion.

For to see ourselves embracing positive change and experiencing spiritual renewal would certainly mean ridding the mind of the unnecessary baggage caused by things such as envy, hatred and any form of prejudice. In fact anything that would hinder us from a right living based on a sincere search for God’s ‘will’ must be change.

Furthermore we must never allow ourselves to fall into the trap of believing that in calling or saying that we are Christians is any guarantee to sharing in the kingdom of heaven. For to confess Christianity with the lips only and not in actions is a far cry from sincerely seeking and doing the ‘will’ of God.

As children of God and followers of Jesus Christ who by our baptism now share in his powerful baptism of the Holy Spirit we must seek to live as people of the Holy Spirit and bear good fruit, fruit worthy of repentance. Life for the Christian cannot and must not be the same old way as it was before being baptism in Christ for Paul tells us that, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” [2Cor. 5: 17]

So as children of God and as a new creation we must acknowledge that we are call to be spirit filled people living in complete contrast to those who are not born of the spirit. For to be a new creation in Christ Jesus would make us a people ready to bear good fruit at all times as we recognize and exhibit the fruit of the spirit. Paul writing to the church at Galatia tells us that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” [Gal. 5: 22-23]

This Advent season as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas, let us all engage ourselves in serious reflection and self-examination that would see us responding to the question of our text in a positive manner. “What then should we do?” We should change our minds and actions so that as Spirit filled people we would bear good fruit and be agents of the fruit of the Spirit from this day onward.

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