I am a sucker for time travel movies. I pride myself as logical, yet, I find myself seduced by the implausible –hoping against hope. They all have the same plot: the protagonist living in regret, lamenting a future made dismal by an event from the past, is given the chance for a do-over. Of course, time travel stories are based on the premise that the impossible is possible, that the consequences of the past are undo-able. And, since the past is changeable, there must then, exist alternate realities to add to the storyline’s intrigue.
Not strangely, the Gospel Story speaks to this same universal dream –that there exists for us a chance for a do-over; to un-do the sins of our past; to change the course of our future. And this is the Advent message of John the Baptist, that in our repentance we will find The Gift; The One Sent; The Savior; The One who uttered the Ancient Word, “I know the plans I have in mind for you - it is Yahweh who speaks - plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you.” (JER 29:11). Unlike the fantastical offered by time travel movies, the Gospel offers, in Truth, The Gift which holds out to us the chance to erase our past sins and to receive a New Life, with a future full of hope.
Luke records these Words of Jesus regarding the Voice crying out in the wilderness, “All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God's plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them.” (LK 7:29). Here, Jesus poises the Present Moment as a point about to diverge along two alternate realities: those who accept John’s call to Repentance receive The Gift of a New Life, to be Born Again with a new future; and those who refuse to repent, remain mired in their Sin, and thwart the wonderful future that ‘God had in mind for them’. The world was then, and still is today, divided into those who receive The Gift, and those who reject Him.
Earlier, in chapter three, we read of John, “He said, therefore, to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, 'Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruits…” (Lk 3:7). All in the crowd had sinned against God, so, all had earned the title ‘brood of vipers’ –all were under the retribution of their Sin.
The answer, to who warned them to flee from it, is none other than the Spirit of God within, the Voice of conscience, bending to the gravity of what they have done. This repentance is the gift that introduces them to The Gift. It is the Seed that leads to a Death which is raised up to New Life. And it is this Death which is evidence of the appropriate fruits –a life lived for God. Some in the crowd heard John’s call to Repentance; accepted Gods’ plan for their lives; turned from Sin and made straight the path in their hearts to receive the One Sent, the Savior of the world. And some in the crowd did not.Father, this Advent as I gaze upon The Gift of your Son, may your Spirit gently gift me with the revelation of my wretchedness, with the gravity of my Sin, that I may fly to your Mercy, that I may Live Anew in all ways pleasing to you. Jesus, you are The Gift of my desire. I submit to John’s baptism of repentance –I stand washed in the Water gushing from your Wound on the Cross, washed of the Sin I renounce. Baptize me now, in your Holy Spirit and Fire –empower me to live in the Light of your Truth. This, my plea for your Mercy, is the only gift I have to offer. I wrap it in Faith, Hope and Love.