December seems to last forever when you’re a child. All the anticipation, the carols ringing on every radio, the hope for gifts, the holiday get-togethers, seeing relatives and friends, and of course just the sheer weight of waiting all make the month last forever. There’s so much buildup and you’re so looking forward to Christmas that time seems to stretch out in front of you and Christmas seems like it’ll never get here. And, I think, at least part of it is that time simply goes by more slowly when you’re younger.
So when we’re in this season of Advent, we’re in a season of waiting. We keep hearing that. I keep saying it. Our prayers keep repeating it. And we’ve been waiting. We’ve been waiting for 2,000 years. Jesus is supposed to arrive riding the clouds and finishing the new creation any day now. But…like…where is he? What’s taking so long? We trust that he’s coming like he said he would, but this is taking a long time. And maybe, just maybe, that waiting lifts up a bit of doubt--
Which is where John the Baptist finds himself in today’s reading.
Matthew 3:1-12, Isaiah 11:1-10
Back when I was little and we lived in Virginia, our neighbors had a fig tree. It grew right next to the fence, and every summer we would be allowed to pick the fruit whenever we felt like it, because there were way too many figs growing on that tree for the three people next door to eat. I remember, as a kid who grew up in a neighborhood far from farms of any kind, how special that tree was because of how it magically made food.
And then there were these other trees in our backyard. Big, tall pine trees that dropped their own kind of fruit. The fruit they had were these hard, round, spiky balls we called “gumballs”—a name I still am not sure if it was real or just what we called them. They dropped every time a stiff breeze came by, and most of the backyard would be covered in them to the point that running barefoot was like running through a minefield.
Even as a child, I could tell what good fruit looked like.