Week two of Advent is underway.
We are waiting.
And while we wait, we repent.
To repent means to turn around—an active change of behavior. It is more than feeling sorry, or even sincerely feeling sorry. The biblical idea of repentance involves a willingness to turn one’s life around in the sense of a complete reorientation.
This seems a bit more of a challenge than the waiting part of Advent, am I right?
Yes, waiting can be and needs to be active. Advent is a time of waiting and hoping, of renewing our trust in God’s merciful love and care and of reflecting on the several comings of Christ in our lives. This is another way of talking about waiting and hoping.
Doesn’t that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?!
John knew something was coming. Something much larger than him and he urges action: repentance, for the time is short. John wants God’s people to be ready. In repenting, the people will see how they have wandered away from the teachings of the Torah. They will see the way back to God’s peace.
Here’s what I love about John’s sermon. Notice how John doesn’t say “repent or the kingdom of God…” – the kingdom of God is not to be feared; it is to be welcomed.
Nor does John say, “repent and the kingdom of God…” – the kingdom of God is not contractual either.
What John declares is that we need to repent, for the kingdom of God has drawn near—what is about to happen is not dependent on us. God is God and will always be God and it was, it is, and will always be God who brings about God’s reign. The dreaded ‘c’ word, CHANGE is inevitable with God.
John called for the repentance of God’s people because God was coming in the person Jesus, the Christ.
Let me put it this way:
God’s reign has drawn near
Ready or not, here it comes
Repent, watch out, church
To repent means to change our minds. Biblical scholars have broadened the word to mean something like reorienting, reordering, or re-centering. Or maybe it is like resetting. Here is an example:
Recently, I watched my friends at By the Bean coffee shop make a pour over. I watched their attention to detail—the weight of the water, the weight of the coffee grounds, and then the weight of both when they began to pour the water of the coffee grinds. It is a beautiful process for a cup of coffee. However, sometimes the scale gets a little off and the miscalculations of the values alter the taste of coffee. The scale needs to be reset.
The writer Anne Lamott once said that most things can be fixed if we just turn them off for a while and back on, including ourselves. When our values are off, we need to be reset...reordered, reoriented. That is the essence of John the Baptist's message: We need to reorder our lives, reset our priorities, and return to God...for the kingdom of heaven is here...and we don't want to miss it.
God’s love isn’t an ‘if-then’ equation. God loves us. God loves you. God wants all to know this love.
In a time when it feels like the rules are rigged, John's message ushers in hope. A new era and a day has dawned, and it is a light that shines for and on all people. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
The choice is yours…