John (the Baptist) said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” [from Luke 3]
So, all these people were coming to hear John and he called them a bunch of snakes. Not very welcoming. I have no idea why they didn’t just slither back to their homes to get away from his venomous rantings.
There had to be something in his words that appealed to them, though, or they wouldn’t have kept coming in droves.
His metaphor is so very striking. I’ve seen ONE snake rushing from danger (the danger was me, squealing and rushing in the opposite direction, having just seen a snake). John’s speech makes me imagine something more along the lines of a horror movie—hordes of snakes shooting along the ground in every direction to escape something.
Maybe John is—in his wildly dramatic fashion—trying to get people to stop fleeing. To turn around and pay attention to the thing they’re running from. And then to move forward.
What are we trying to escape this Advent? Too much to do, maybe? A sense of emptiness in a culture that celebrates self-actualization, always reaching for more, never being satisfied? A bland spirituality? A hurt that is too painful to examine? A need that is too deep to name?
John’s fleeing listeners, afraid of the meaning of his words, asked him what they should do to fulfill their needs. He didn’t tell them to pray (though I’m sure he thought prayer was a good thing). He didn’t tell them to believe (though he certainly had strong beliefs). He told them to share.
In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”
Whatever we fear and need to escape, the answer is often in the sharing of possessions, time, energy, attention, self.
The thing we’re running from probably won’t disappear, but it may seem smaller in the rear view mirror when we focus on what we’re moving toward.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2012