John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “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.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.
Captain Obvious is one of my favorite recent ad campaigns. His simple approach is mocked as he points out what should be obvious. Even before the campaign, the name was often applied to people pointing out the obvious, or what shouldn’t need to be said. As I read this passage for Advent, looking for the deep wisdom, it is obvious that the wisdom is obvious and should not need to be said, yet read the headlines on any of your preferred news sources and you’ll see evidence we are largely missing the point.
- Share your extra coat
- Share your food
- Take what is right
- Don’t be bullies
- Appreciate what you have
The wisdom is obvious for how we treat our fellow humans, the community, the earth and ultimately our own hearts. Show gratitude for what you have today. Share from abundance. Really see your neighbor. Those seem to be a good place to begin bearing the fruits of repentance.