There’s a great line in Home Alone “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.” John the Baptist is just as brutal to the leaders of his nation Happy Advent, “You brood of vipers.”
He’s a wild man – dressed in camel’s hair clothing and a diet of locusts and wild honey. But this wild eyed, desert living preacher man happens to be the last and greatest Old Covenant prophet – the forerunner of Jesus Christ.
His message is a wild one too. Repent! A call to change and re-evaluate the entirety of your life. Not just a quick tidy-up, a small recalculation. A radical complete u-turn. When we used to ask our children to tidy their rooms, one of them, who will remain nameless, used to put their mess under their bed or stuffed in a drawer! The character Monica on the TV show Friends was once asked by Chandler why one door in the flat was always locked. She panics, but then lets on it is crammed full of stuff. Her perfect illusion is shattered. Chandler hugs her and tells her he loves her even though she is not perfect.
This is the message that John the Baptist is forerunning. Stop hiding your mess, stop being a hypocrite. Don’t be a brood of vipers. The religious and political leaders of that day were just as hypocritical as today’s- they were a brood of vipers and John the Baptist calls them out. Jesus later is equally scathing. I’m not sure “whitewashed tombs” is a complement!
The coming Kingdom of God, the good news, the gospel is come to the Lord just as you are. Stop hiding your mess. Come with your mess, prepared to do a u-turn on the way you have been doing life.
I’ve often said you could sense John the Baptist’s frustration at his message of repentance – sure the past is dealt with but where is the power for life change? So thankfully he gets to prophecy that Jesus will “baptise you with the Holy Spirit”. That was a radical message for his hearers. In the Old Testament very few people were empowered by the Spirit – now the Messiah will drench everybody with his power to be holy.
Praise God we can make that U-turn and not be a brood of vipers in the power of the Spirit.