Luke 3:8ff{selected} Bear fruits that befit repentance, . . . As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts . . . . So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

This is the 3rd Sunday in Advent, and on it we light the pink candle, it is pink to remind us that during advent we rejoice in hope, hope in the coming of the Savior. And yet some might wonder how a text which talks about people as a brood of vipers, that is, a bunch of poisonous snakes, can have anything to do with rejoicing in hope.

There is an old adam in each of us, it is sinful, and sin began when the serpent started the first temptation, and we said, Yes. To be a brood of vipers, is not only to live in that old adam, but it is to follow in the ways of that old serpent the devil. It is to live as children of the devil, and to share in the damnation that has been prepared for the devil. But by grace through faith, working through Word and Sacrament, the Spirit has worked to create a new man, and we mark this birth at baptism. And daily we remember our baptism, and so also daily, we drown the old adam, and rise to the new life that is ours in Christ.

Often we face conflict, for the ways of the world are not the ways of God. In the world, we keep hearing that it is bad to be good. The world keeps asking, Why should I be good when the wicked prosper? And why is it called good news, to tell me that I am a sinner, and that Iíd better repent? If thatís all the good news is, the world says, I donít want any part of it.

But that is only half the story. The other half of the story is the difference that love makes. Let me explain, if the best thing is for everyone to be able to do what they want, well, is that really what you want? If you see someone walking on thin ice, should you let them go their way? And when the ice breaks and they fall in, should you let them go their way? And as they drown, should you let them go their way? The goal of life is generally not to kill yourself, and it is not something most people want, and if it is about to happen because of ignorance, or because of something we didnít see or know, most of us would like to be warned. So, love warns people of danger. Love tells people, you know, youíre on a cliff, and you are awfully close to the edge. And should someone fall, love throws them a rope to pull them up and out of danger.

If we donít care, we do nothing. So, orphans have no one to call them from danger or to rescue them from perishing. No one to teach them right from wrong, or to rescue them from Hell. No one to discourage them from bad habits, and to encourage virtue. No one to love them enough to save them from perishing. Isnít that terrible? They are free to do as the please and to die in their freedom because no one loves them enough to show them a better way. Thank God for parents, and for the people who God has moved to look after orphans, for God does not want any to perish, but for all to be loved, and to be saved.

So the law, given in love, pulls us away from danger, calling us to repent of sin, lest we perish. But the law doesnít work alone, but works with the gospel, which tells us the good news of salvation. It is the gospel that says that when we repent, then we can receive the forgiveness that God has prepared for us. The gospel says we need not perish. The gospel tells us to the new life which is ours in Christ, and calls us to live, not as children of the devil, but instead, as the children of God. The gospel tells us of Godís great love for us, and how this love was made manifest in Jesus Christ, and in his gift of His life, so that we might not perish, but that we might have everlasting life, peace with God, and forgiveness for all our sins.

And as the love of God works in us, it works to make us perfect, like a child of God, and the fruit of faith, can thus also be called, the fruit of repentance. For it is faith in the promise of God that makes us trust in the promise of the forgiveness of sins. We may also speak of good works and of virtue. Virtue is a good word, and a good thing.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.

God creates these virtues in us, and causes them to grow, it is part of being a child of God. So when we hear that God is coming, we rejoice in expectation, for we know that when he comes, we will be made perfect in all things. And when John the Baptist spoke the words of exhortation to the people, it was good news, for he was telling them to grow in the grace and virtue that God is working in you, grow as children of God. And give thanks to God, that he loves you enough to warn you of danger, and to call you to good things, and to the great tresure which is ours in Jesus Christ.