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Maybe we need to give more

By Pastor Chris Costrini
Venango Community Church

Preparing for the coming of the Messiah seems to make John the Baptist a little crazy. He wears clothes made out of camel hair (just like the prophet Elijah); he’s eating honey and bugs; he moves out of town and out to the wilderness.
The wilderness was an important symbol for the people of Israel. It’s the place were Israel meets God (as in Exodus 20), the place where Israel follows God (Jeremiah 2:2) and the place where God calls and Israel answers (Hosea 2:14 -15). In Isaiah, the wilderness is turned from desert to blooming garden–it represents a place of new birth.
John’s location in the wilderness calls Israel to a new start, to reestablish a proper relationship with God.
John’s preaching shows Israel just how to restart that relationship–through repentance. To repent is to turn–to have a change of mind and a change of heart about sin. To repent means to turn away from sin and back to God.
John’s call is to all, but not everyone accepts it. The religious people listening think they’re okay; they are born Jews and are leaders in their religion. Sometimes we think that our position or heritage means we’re okay with God. But John warns them, and us, they are about to be judged. Everyone needs to turn to God, whoever they happen to be.
To those willing to listen, John expects not just words, but ‘fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Luke 3:8 ESV). If we say we have turned away from sin, we should show that we are living in a different way. John gives specific examples to specific people–those with extra should give to those without; tax collectors and soldiers shouldn’t abuse their authority.
Different situations and different responses to each of these groups, but there is a common theme: our lives are generally centered on ourselves, but when we repent, when we turn, our actions become focused on others. We won’t be worried about how much we can get, but how much we can give.
At Christmas the message really isn’t how much we can give, but how much we can spend. Maybe we don’t need to spend so much; maybe we need to give more–more of our money, more of our time, more of our selves. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance, even this Christmas.