John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”
You have probably read the story or seen one of the movie versions of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is a despicable character: a selfish, arrogant, hard-hearted, mean-spirited, uncaring, tightwad. But Scrooge is visited one night by three ghosts who force him to see himself as he really is—selfish and awful. That night changes him completely! Scrooge wakes up to Christmas Day. He sends presents. He gives to charity. His life was completely turned around!
Why are we so fascinated with this story? Probably because it is similar to our story. We too needed to be turned around—needed to be converted from selfishness to love, from unbelief to belief. So God sent us, not ghosts, but a spirit—the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, through God’s holy law and through God’s messengers, helps us see ourselves as we really are. In our lesson, one of God’s messengers, John the Baptist, says that sometimes we act like snakes. We slip into all sorts of sins.
But the Spirit does not just help us see our sins. He shows us the Savior. John the Baptist prepared people to meet Jesus, the Lamb of God whose sacrifice would take our sin away. When we see Christ make that sacrifice on the cross for us, it turns us around. John said, “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” He is telling us that our lives will change completely, that we will live differently, now that we have seen Christ and understand what he did for us.
Once Scrooge realized the truth, his life changed completely. He gave instead of taking. He served others instead of making demands of others. His life was marked by joy, not anger. Likewise, we who have seen the Christ—we don’t want to live for ourselves, but for him. Christ changes us from greedy, selfish people into generous, loving, gracious, servant-like people.
Jesus has turned us around. He has enabled us to repent. That’s good news! So do the kinds of things that show you are sorry for your failures and show how thankful you are that you have forgiveness in Jesus. He is coming to take you to everlasting joy. So, live in that joy! Live like your life has been turned around—because it has!
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to bring us joy. Forgive us for our failures. Lead us to live the kind of lives that reflect the new life you have given to us. Amen.