John the Baptist’s words in verse 7 strike out at the Pharisees and Sadducees of Matthew’s story with a quickness and venom fitting the snake imagery. Given only the scant background information that these religious elites are joining many going out to John to be baptized, John’s rebuke may seem strong to us. “You brood of vipers!” he lashes out. “You descendants of snakes!” John’s words become clearer and sharper as he continues, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor.’” In place of the honor and strength of calling themselves children of Abraham, John casts these Jewish religious leaders as children of snakes.

The painful sting of John’s words can strike us too. Like the Sadducees and Pharisees, we might come to signs of confession and restoration with unspoken confidence that our backgrounds—our religious pedigrees—save us or make us superior. While our words might not be “We have Abraham as our ancestor,” perhaps we too may feel our religious affiliation or family background, our education or church involvements give us the freedom to go through the motions of repentance without making real change. John’s words can strike us painfully; all our perceived privilege is worthless. We might as well be children of snakes.

The beauty of this sharp critique, though, is that it still allows for transformation. God does not abandon the Pharisees and Sadducees to their arrogance. John offers them, and us, the chance to “bear fruit worthy of repentance.” No one is outside God’s possibilities of repentance and promises of redemption. We are all welcome to transform our lives. While we might sometimes be more akin to children of snakes than children of Abraham, our Advent passages remind us that even vipers and their offspring have a place in God’s promised future.

God of Abraham and vipers, humble me. Help me to give up my false assurances and to bear fruit worthy of repentance. Amen.

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Leer Matthew 11:2-11

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Leccionario Semanal
December 2–8, 2019
Resumen de la Escritura

The readings from the Hebrew scriptures look forward to the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah describes a root from the family of Jesse, that is the family of David, that will rule fairly and usher in an age of peace. The psalmist extols the virtues of a royal son who defends the poor and the oppressed and causes righteousness and peace to abound. Christians traditionally read these psalms as prophecies about Jesus Christ. Paul in Romans quotes several prophetic passages from the Hebrew scriptures, but he begins by emphasizing that those writings were given for our instruction. Christianity without the Hebrew scriptures lacks its foundations. Just as we prepare our hearts during Advent for the arrival of the Christ child, John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus in Matthew.

Preguntas para la reflexión

Read Isaiah 11:1-10. What appeals to you in Isaiah’s vision for The Peaceable Kingdom? What challenges you?
Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. Consider the ways you lead in your church, community, or work. How do you nurture the life God has created in these environments? How can you better lead toward God’s righteousness, justice, and peace?
Read Romans 15:4-13. How can you welcome others as Christ has welcomed you?
Read Matthew 3:1-12. How can you prepare yourself to accept a wild or risky proclamation of God’s kingdom?

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