Luke 3:7-18 – The Third Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 13, 2015
“Then John said to the crowds, who came to be baptized by him, ‘You children of snakes! Who warned you to come to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon?’” (Luke 3:7)
A handful of years ago I pedaled toward a sign stapled on a fence. I slowed, then stopped and chuckled.
According to local news reports, several people claimed they’d spotted a cougar around this area. Warnings were posted, like the sign on the fence.
The sign had a grainy photo of a “big cat.”
There was a smidgen of nervousness in my laughter because yours truly was the only obvious biking or walking warm body in that section of Fresno’s Woodward Park. The asphalt path continued east, paralleling open fields, copses of trees—excellent cover for large, sneaky felines—and the San Joaquin River.
“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?’” (Luke 3:7)
(This is a revised 2009 reflection. In my new 2012 Advent reflections I’m ignoring more traditional interpretations of the Advent/Christmas scriptures. Of course, you may read this and think, “Hey Larry, this 2009 piece is also ignoring the obvious!”)
I pedaled by the sign attached to the fence and chuckled. Really more a nervous laugh because the morning’s cold and not many people are around and I’d entered a section of Woodward Park that contained open fields and paralleled the San Joaquin River and felt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . isolated.
According to the local news, someone recently reported they might have spotted a mountain lion (or cougar as they’re sometimes called) in this park. Warnings were posted. Like this hastily printed sign in the photo.
I also chuckled because I’ve been thinking about John the Baptist. I suspect not many people on this cold lonely morning are contemplating the Baptist’s ancient words. But I was. And so, nervously chuckling at the warning signs, I’m recalling his every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Cut down. Gulp. It’s another Advent-inspired, get-ready-for-Christmas threat. I shiver a tad. It ain’t summer after all (well, at least that’s my excuse).
The Baptist challenged the crowds on the banks of the Jordan River.
Hmmm, a warning along a river?
Out here, in a regional city park on the north end of Fresno (fifth-largest city in California), I’ve seen deer, rabbit, bobcat and coyote. The park hugs the San Joaquin River. At 330 winding miles, it’s the state’s second-longest river. I’ve hiked around lake basins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, high on the rugged crest, which mark the San Joaquin’s alpine birth. Between Fresno and the granite peaks are subdivisions, parks, dams, highways and fast food joints. Still, the river is a corridor, a pathway from wilderness to civilization. I’m not surprised when I see bobcat or coyote in these lowlands.
But a cougar, an elusive predator, is a different story. But . . . I’m on a bike! Couldn’t I outrace ‘em? Later I learn they sprint 30-35 miles per hour. Get pedaling, Larry. But . . . I won’t bump into one because Fresno’s huge, with over a hundred square miles of streets and shopping malls. However—yikes—a cougar’s territory covers thirty square miles. That narrows the safe acreage. And they’re also big cats. I’m not quite six feet tall. An average full-grown cougar, tail to head, would drop the “not quite” from that footage.