The Fire of the Spirit
Holy Spirit, prepare my heart to receive the greatest gift—Immanuel, “God with us.”
Read: MATTHEW 3:1-12
 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea  and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”  John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.  People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.  Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?  Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Reflect: WHAT IS JOHN THE BAPTIST’S MESSAGE?
Today we turn to another witness, John the Baptist, to help us discover what Immanuel (1:23, “God with us”) has come to do. John is a radical figure with a challenging message of repentance. To repent literally means to turn around. It means a complete revolution of our thoughts, hearts and choices. John is not encouraging us to be more religious or to try to do good things but to be utterly transformed, to turn away from ungodly thoughts and patterns of behavior. It is not a comfortable message, and, just like John’s first hearers, we find ourselves provoked.“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (2). This is the good news that Jesus himself will also preach (see 4:17). But is it the message we hear in our churches today? John explains that when we repent, Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (11). Repentance and forgiveness precede the Holy Spirit and his fire. If we long for more of God’s presence perhaps we need to heed John’s message.
Repent of the things that have come between you and God, ask for Jesus’ forgiveness and invite the fire of his Spirit.
Lord, as I celebrate the day You were born as one of us, I look forward to the day of Your glorious return.
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