I'm reflecting on the custom of gift-giving, which is grounded in God's greatest gift to us. We spend a lot of time selecting just the right gifts for our loved ones. And what shall I give to God? Advent provides me with the opportunity to consider that question.
John the Baptizer came preaching repentance, saying, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance. . . every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt. 3:8, 10). In other words, “Give God a life that tastes as good as it sounds!” That’s one of the things I want to give God this year, a life that bears delicious fruit. How do I do that?
I have to recognize the need for change and growth. A plant that stops changing and growing stops producing fruit. Things happen to people that cause them to stop changing and growing and their lives are not fruitful. A life that tastes as good as it sounds knows the necessity of change and growth.
I also have to learn to recognize good from evil. Have you ever bitten into a beautiful piece of fruit that has no flavor or is bitter? When dealing with fruit, it doesn’t take much more than a taste to tell the difference between good and bad. Why is it more difficult in dealing with the fruit of our lives? A life that tastes as good as it sounds recognizes the difference between good and evil. But then...
I have to make a choice. We may not be able to choose our parents or color of our skin or land of our birth. But we must choose how to respond to the people and the conditions around us. To give God a life that tastes as good as it sounds, we’ll have to change and grow, discern between good and bad, and make some responsible choices.
Our tradition includes both John the Baptizer and Jesus the Messiah! With only John, I’d know I am a snake, an unproductive bush. But with the Messiah, I know I have divine help to live a fruitful life.
Christian Baptism is not so much the dedication of a person’s life to God as it is the dedication of God’s life to a person and to a community of persons. John baptized with water for purification. But Jesus brought a baptism that included fire and the Holy Spirit. In Baptism, we are incorporated into God’s life, provided opportunities to turn to God, warned that being a faithful witness is costly, and given the Holy Spirit to help us live a fruitful life that tastes as good as it sounds.
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church