Prepare the way of the Lord, make a straight path for God.
Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees;
every tree that does not bear good fruit
is cut down and thrown into the fire.
—Matthew 3. 3, 8, 10
I go out into our thick blackberry patch in the fall with clippers and cut down every spent cane that won’t bear next year, every broken stalk, every dead stem. That’s how we get more fruit next year. John’s imagery isn’t about the fires of hell; it’s about new growth, and the little deaths that are a part of repentance.
Besides what you want to get for Christmas, what do you need to let go of? What needs to be pruned? What needs to die? Pray for the courage to let go, and hope in the new life that awaits beneath what you can see.