Our readings today have a common theme. Luke 3 recounts the preaching of John the Baptist in the wilderness, who “went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance” (verse 3). He was Isaiah’s “voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord”. There had been no prophet since Malachi 400 years earlier, and certainly none like John. Matthew 3 shows his anger is directed at the religious leaders: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke3:7).

There are comparisons with Ezekiel’s message (chapter 7) sent to the people back in Jerusalem. Those who had gone into captivity like himself and Daniel were in a better situation. Our reading in 2 Kings 17 is about the collapse of the northern kingdom, one so evil that its last king had even “burned his son as an offering” (16:3) to the false gods he thought might help him! The remaining godly people in the north had previously moved south to worship the LORD in Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 15:9).

After John the Baptist warned the religious leaders the crowds asked ‘What then shall we do?’. His answer was not just to be baptised, but to change their lives and where they had two of anything “to share with him who has none, and whomever has food is to do likewise” (verse 10). This is a fundamental message of the New Testament. Baptism is an essential step in following Christ, but it must be followed by sharing our faith and doing good works. Western governments try to look after their poor as best they can, and sometimes the poor in other countries. But this will be done much more effectively when Jesus returns. Until then we know that we should be playing our part.