“But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance…I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Matthew 3:7-8, 11) Do you suppose John’s favorite lyrics from a Christmas song would be: “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why”? Boy, John, don’t hold back; tell them what you really think! Advent can be a shock to the system, can’t it? Culturally, we don’t associate this time of year with warnings and calls to repent. But there’s old John in his camel-hair jacket acting like the Grinch trying to steal Christmas from us. Pretty annoying; and yet, we know that he’s right. Left to our own devices, we’re not ready for Santa, let alone the Lord of the Universe. But still, he has come and will come again. And our only hope is simply this: that when he first came, he startled John by insisting on receiving baptism. And in that way, Jesus identified with sinners and forgave them. Soon, we will once again make our way with the shepherds and peer into the manger. And there we will see him, the Lord, our Judge with a winnowing fork in his hand, ready to burn away all of our sin and dross with the fire of his passionate love.