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."
The Gospel called Luke, chap 3 (for Advent III, Year C, RCL)
[ The complete Readings for Advent III can be found at:
The Collect (Gathering Prayer) this morning asks of God that She “stir up Her power and come among us”. It speaks of God’s “bountiful grace and mercy”. It speaks of our deep awareness of our Sin – our often deep lack of Love which so diminishes both our own and everyone else’s humanity. It speaks of our awareness of our need and desire to turn to Love – to “repent”. Yes, Advent III is full of both our sense of our failures at reflecting Divine Compassion and of our hope that we can find and claim our loving Self.
The prophet Zephaniah calls the people to Rejoice and “sing aloud”. Despite their continuing sin, God has “taken away the judgments” against them, and “turned away” their enemies. The message is – at least to me – clear: each of us will find the core of Love at our very center if we welcome the God Who is Love into our hearts … and that indwelling of Love will “save us”.
People respond to John the Baptist’s call from the Wilderness; they flock to the Jordan. I’m often a little cynical: were they sincere, or just hedging their bets? But then I recognize myself there among them … and I join them in their longing and hope for “salvation”. “Salvation” is not magic. Salvation is to be drawn onto the path of Divine Compassion and held onto that Path by our own daily turning to Love and by the divine grace that frees us from getting stuck in our failures.
Philippians says: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. There is our template for living: Rejoice; Be gentle; Be not anxious; Trust and Be thankful; Seek peace.
In these clashing days in politics and religion, Luke has some good advice for a Humanity that seeks personal and global well-being: Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.
The Baptist says of Jesus: “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." The message is for each of us for this very day and every day of our Life: Choose Love. Love is that Holy Fire which consumes that which is unlovely. It helps us to follow John’s call to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” … to light the World with Compassion.