John 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? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin 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 ax 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.’ And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’" (Lk 3: 7-11)

So as John the Baptist prepares us for the coming of Christ, one of the first things he tells us (after leading with “brood of vipers!” ☺) is, “Do not begin to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our ancestor.” Don’t even “begin” to do that. Whatever long tradition of faith you come from, however Orthodox your Fathers were yesterday, you must “bear fruits worthy of repentance” in the here and now. This means sharing what I have, be it extra coats or food or something else, “with anyone who has none.”

Today I will contemplate this message a bit more in my heart. It is indeed possible to be, like me, of Orthodox ancestry, officially to “belong” to an Orthodox tradition, an Orthodox nationality, and yet be one of “a brood of vipers.” Let me hear this word today, offered to me by the Forerunner of Christ, and focus on what he is telling me to do: “Bear fruits worthy of repentance.” Share what you have, he says, “with anyone who has none.” Let me continue my journey of this Nativity Fast in the Spirit of self-giving and sharing, bearing fruits worthy of repentance in the here and now.

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