patty kirk

patty kirk lying down, getting up, sitting at home, walking down the road doing deuteronomy 6:7

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the day after christmas

So, if Jesus is now among us, as I have just celebrated, how are things different?

I went to Matthew 3 this morning to study that question, thinking, Okay, Matthew’s account of Jesus birth is in Chapters 1 and 2, so what comes next—in the story, in my life—must be in Matthew 3.

Imagine my surprise to find myself with John the Baptist baptizing his cousin Jesus, both already grown up, talking about repentance. I had patently forgotten what I had already written about this Advent: all the miserable bad news that accompanies the good news of the birth. The killing of all the little Jewish boys Herod thought might be the king the magi were searching for. Poor Joseph’s many nightmares. Jesus’ family’s flight to Egypt as refugees of terror before settling down in Nazareth upon Herod’s death. I had forgotten, in the excitement of the gospel of Christmas, that meanness goes on all around us and in us. That we are all, still, messed up—whether or not we believe in the one God sent.

One line, in what Jesus’ cousin has to say about the matter, confused me. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” he preaches specifically to the Sadducees and Pharisees.  He calls them a “brood of vipers” and seems enraged that they have joined the crowds who “went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan” (3:5). I didn’t stop to wonder, as I do now, why the Sadducees and Pharisees—religious experts who would have surely have known, or thought they knew, answers to people’s questions about God and the future that John was answering in his sermons (as I also often think I know)—were there at all. What did they want from John the Baptist and, later, Jesus? Confirmation? Validation? But why would they need it? Could it be they were secretly insecure in matters of faith—like the others in the crowd, like me?

Instead, I wondered—as those religious experts may have wondered—What does he mean? What does fruit have to do with repentance?

And so begins the assignment I have given myself for the coming spiritual year, to sort through the specific tasks involved in the only job God has given us of believing in the One God Sent. Believing in the One God Sent means bearing the fruit of my remorse for my own inherent, inescapable meanness.

No comments:

Post a Comment