Sunday, December 13, 2015

Advent XV

Those who are ready for baby Jesus in the manger to take center stage because it is December and Christmas Day is in December are surely frustrated if they allow themselves to be guided by the Advent lectionary passages.  The first Sunday of Advent focuses on Jesus coming again and the next two highlight the ministry of John the Baptist.  On this the third Sunday in Advent we are still listening to John. But, something has changed.  Instead of simply hearing him as he hollers, "Repent!" we hear him sounding a different message.  Sounding more like a teacher than a prophet, he preaches to the crowd, "Bear fruits worthy of repentance."  (Luke 3:8) 

What does it mean to bear fruits worthy of repentance?  Surely, one of the first things we are caused to understand is that declaring we have changed is only the first step.  And, if it is the only change, then we have stopped short.  James wrote in his letter to the church, "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead."  (James 2:13)  John the Baptist would agree.  Repentance is not just a thing of the heart, but it is also something which expresses itself in the way life is lived with others.  Resting on spiritual laurels is not an option.  Neither is ignoring the needs of those around us.  If someone needs a coat or food, they can no longer be ignored.  If we truly bear the fruits of repentance, we cannot live oblivious to our brother and sister's need.  If our heart is changed, it will manifest itself in our actions.

There is, therefore, a practical side to this repentance business.  Repentance is not about some level of spirituality that makes us good for nothing on the earth, but something that enables us to bring a bit of heaven to the worst places and into the most difficult of relationships.  Repentance changes the heart and the changed heart changes the world. 

No comments: