“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. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘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. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’” (Matthew 3:7-12) With a Gospel text like this one, is it any wonder that we want to rush through Advent in order to get to Christmas as soon as possible? And yet here it is, the Gospel and the announcement of the One who is coming, whose birth we celebrate on December 25. Judgment and fire are not exactly how most of us prefer to talk about this season of giving and joy. And yet, here it is, the reason for the season: our Lord approaches in judgment. Perhaps our discomfort is the way in which we frame it. Many of us would prefer to think that judgment could be avoided. But that is not really possible. We live in a culture of terrible and swift judgment. We judge one another, we judge ourselves, and often there is little mercy in those judgments. And now this: even you, Jesus? Yes, even Jesus. But his judgment is different. It is not first announced with thunder and lightning, but with an infant’s cry in a stable. Look over there: there is your judge; he is the little one shivering in the cold and now he invites you to live within the parameters of his judgment. As the Nicene Creed puts it: “for us and our salvation, he came down from heaven.” Judgment has been passed and with joy let us accept it. With joy, let us live in its light and now judge others as we have been judged. Have a great week!