Today's reading: Luke 3:7-18
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. (v. 8b)
If you think you know who your companions are on the journey of Advent--on the journey of faith, the very journey of life--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is peopled with tax collectors, soldiers, questioners, sinners. And if the pedigreed people in the religious family tree harden their hearts and close their eyes and fold their arms and refuse to be fruitful among this most unlikely company, God will raise up a brand new family from the surrounding stones.
If you think spouting your spiritual genealogy gets you off the hook of repentance--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is the turning-around way, the bending-the-knee way, the giving-all way. What must we do to bear good fruit, to avoid the axe that cuts down even the most religious, but fruitless, tree? What must we do---recite our ancestry, repeat our bedtime prayers, regulate our creeds? No. What must we do? Give (and give more). Do your job fairly. Be kind and be truthful. Be satisfied.
If you think your religious membership is a Golden Ticket, an all-access pass, a get-out-of-jail-free card--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) echoes with Hallelujahs sung by the outcast, rings with Glorias shouted by the poor, hums with prayers whispered by the unworthy.
If you think you are one of them (outcast, poor, unworthy--and we are all unworthy--); if you think there's no place for you on the holy routes; if you think you're too broken, too sick, too sad, too liberal, too conservative, too powerless, too doubtful, too angry, too hurt, too empty--prepare to be surprised. The Advent road (the Life road) is the Good News road! Think you've become hardened? God calls our stony hearts to life. Think you're mired in empty speeches and thoughtless recitations? God invites us to a faith that acts. Think your song has been silenced, your prayers unheard? God gathers up even the smallest grains of love into a harvest that will feed a starving world.
So if you think you're ready to join your unlikely, unworthy companions on this road (this Advent road, this Life road, this Good News road): come, and walk. We're on the way.