For Advent #2, Dec. 6, 2015. Malachi 3:1-4, Luke 1:68-79, Luke 3:1-6, Philippians 1:3-11
Refiners fire and caustic soap, hardly images I want as ornaments for my Christmas tree! Yet these are important symbols for this time of year when we yearn for change, for light to pierce darkness.
The story from Luke 1 is another "not so ornament worthy" Christmas message. "Repent!" The word acts like a starter's gun-it starts most of us sprinting away!
I like to listen to a weekly podcast called; "Pulpit Fiction."pulpit fiction podcast
This week, the host mentioned how he doesn't like the words sin or repentance, because they carry too much negative baggage. We associate them with crackpot "end of world" street prophets, shrieking away in gloomy self righteousness.
At Christmas, we don't want gloomy, we don't want guilt, we don't want darkness. Our frantic, glitzy celebrations distract from reality for a short time, which feels good-at least till the bills, weight gain, hangovers....etc....have to be dealt with. Then we wonder why we did all the same old things again.
It is much more useful to think about the meaning of repentance. The word means; to turn from, to change direction,to change perspective. The podcast host said that one interesting definition of "sin" comes from the idea of an archer missing the target. Repentance, then, could be thought of as trying again, re-aiming. Learning how to get closer to what we are aiming at.
The season of advent is a time for re-aiming, for re-setting our perspectives and trying again. Thought of this way, each new Christmas season is another reset, hopefully a step up from where we were the year before. It's not a quick bandaid for problems. It's more than one turkey dinner for the poor, it's a commitment to try to get at the root causes of that poverty during the rest of the year. It means changing perspectives to make that ongoing engagement more real every time we celebrate Jesus' coming.
Actually, I kind of like the idea of fire and soap ornaments for my tree. Fire changes things and gives light ant warmth. Soap cleans things, and helps me deal with messes. Christmas should inspire more than seasonal change too.
Question: What would you like to turn away from in your life? What new direction should you start in? (Note: This question is not only for individuals! Try putting your church name in place of the word you as well, remembering that you have both individual and corporate responsibility in the work of that change!)