This reflection is the fouth in a four-part Advent series that will be posted each Wednesday on Living Lutheran.

Light all four of your candles. Consider this question: How scared are you of the future? Slowly begin to imagine that God has a great future in mind for us.

 “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7)

If you really want a more vivid Christmas, consider an apocalyptic text, like Luke’s account of John the Baptist (Luke 3). It will bother you.

Why should you have a different season this year? And what if you don’t? And what is wrong with getting wrapped up in Christmas consumerism?

Let John show you: He calls for repentance, which means a change of direction. We are all habituated to certain ways of being and thinking. What would it look like for us to change being the kind of people we have always been?

Consider these two kinds of people:

Episodics are good people who live with a suspicion of narrative, in the present, without much connection to a story as a frame. For them, apocalypse or utopian, end time or beginning time, destination or origin, don’t mean that much. Diachronics, on the other hand, build a story based on other stories to which past and future are connected.

Most of us are both of these. We may even identify with one of the postmodern scholars, James Phelan, who says he is an episodic who is a recovering diachronic.

A newcaster announces, “Six children killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx; now Biff Sparkle with the Sports.”

Episodics can hear this without wondering about the economic system that let the building get so old that it burned; diachronics start raving about capitalism and racism.

People who don’t hear the promise about the end of time but only the threat declare, “This is the way things are and this is the way things are going to be.” Time changes, either for ill or good.

We are so stuck in the way we are now that we can’t imagine changing direction – or imagining a wrath to come. A new story is coming and John the Baptist is ready to announce it.

John the Baptist warns of the wrath to come. He says the ax is already laid to the tree in Matthew 3:10. He also is the one who tells us Jesus is coming and that through Baptism we can thrive.

As we approach this Christmas, help us to remember our baptism, which warned us that we had to stay constantly new. When we are constantly new, we know both threat and its redemption in promise.

Donna Schaper
Donna Schaper is senior minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City.

Read more about: