Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advent VIII

On the first Sunday of Advent, Jesus shows up in the clouds.  "We Shall Behold Him"  is our theme song. On the second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist shows up wading in the Jordan River out on the edge of the wilderness.  "Down by the Riverside" is what we sing. The lectionary lessons take us on quite a journey.  One week we are being overpowered with glory and the next week we are standing knee deep in baptismal water and neck deep in our need for repentance.  While today's gospel lesson is centered on Matthew 3, one of the Old Testament lessons carried over from yesterday  (Isaiah 63:16-64:8) lifts up how easy it is for us to find someone to blame other than ourselves for the things which speak of disobedience in our lives. 

Of course, repentance is a both misunderstood and unpopular.  It is largely misunderstood by those who live on the edge of religious jargon and unpopular among those of the church who have heard too many times that being sorry does not cut it.  As John the Baptist preached about repentance, he was calling those who heard him to change, but also to take personal responsibility for the things that were wrong in their lives.  What we know is that there can be no real personal change until accountability is embraced and most of the time, we are looking away from ourselves for a reason for our wrongdoing.  However, the reason for our making wrong choices is never out there in someone else or in some inanimate object, but in our own heart.

Repentance is, therefore, a word for the heart.  Repentance means radical re-orientation of our lives.  Those who repent cease facing toward self and seeking self's gratification, and instead, live facing  God and seeking His pleasure as the primary goal of life.  It is a hard thing that John required of those who would get ready for the One sent by God and it remains so today. 

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