The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer
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Reflection on the readings for the third Sunday in Advent

Based on Zephaniah 3:14-20 “Sing, Daughter of Zion; God comes to bring you home” and Luke 3: 7-18 “John, the Baptist, Preaches the Way

 Opening Prayer: Dear God, may the words from my lips and the thoughts and feelings emerging in our hearts be acceptable in your sight as we reflect on your Holy Word for us this day.  Amen. 

 Today our prophetic messages from Scripture come to us first from little known prophet, Zephaniah, thought to be a disciple of Isaiah; then again (as last week) from the mouth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

 Once again, we hear messages that, at a first glance, might seem harsh and full of foreboding this third Sunday in the season of Advent; the Sunday when we light our pink candle, symbol of joy as we anticipate once again the story of Jesus’ birth a week and a half from now.

 Here we have yet more harsh words to ponder from Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, as he addresses the crowd again, this time focusing on the attitudes and behavior of the fear driven and pious faithful, the tax collectors, and the soldiers who have also come seeking him out in the wilderness requesting baptism. 

 “You brood of vipers”, he calls them and we might well ask ourselves, do we really have to go there again?  And, indeed, the short answer is ‘yes’.  Once again our lectionary readings continue on from where we left off last week as we are invited yet again to go that place of major challenge to hypocrisy that John brings to his ministry of baptism and repentance.

 John the Baptist, that wild and crazy prophet, is one who takes his work seriously and in that work, is not afraid to speak what he perceives to be God’s truth.  

 And, we might wonder, what does God’s truth look like for those early followers in the Way as seen through the lens of the gospel of Luke? 

 According to this particular passage, it looks like a need to tell the truth in love to all in attendance down at the river, even to those in collusion with the Roman State- the tax collectors, and the soldiers who have come along to see what’s what.  

 What’s what is that John has been baptizing large crowds of people eager for a change a heart, mind, and body so that they might respond to living in a new way under the oppression of the Roman Empire.