December 3, 2010

Repenting in Advent

                The colors of the liturgical seasons have special significance, and many Baptists have awakened to the rhythms of the Christian year.  Churches and ministers wear dark blue or purple during the Advent season to represent both the expectation of royalty and the practice of penitence that accompanies the coming of Christ.  [This past Sunday I was the outlier as I showed up in blue while the other ministers wore purple—oh well!  Actually, that was the least of my worries as the guest preacher—but that will have to await another blog entry, or more likely a personal conversation...]

Lent is not the only season that requires self-examination and spiritual reorientation; Advent reveals above all the need the world has for a Savior from God, one like us, yet able to provide a connection with God that we cannot muster on our own. The Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent recounts the ministry of John the Baptist and his clarion call: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3: 2).  Faithful to his prophetic role, John serves as the voice crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”  His message was straightforward: “Turn around and come back to the way of life charted by the covenant.”

Most of us do not like to turn around!  I have been known to think I had a better sense of direction than the GPS, sure that I could find my way as “recalculating” echoes in the car.  Some of us who are stubbornly recalcitrant  will keep going the wrong way because it seems like progress, rather than retrace our steps to get back on the straight path.  Advent offers the opportunity to assess our direction and be guided once again by the Morningstar.

Repentance might take this form for me this year:

·         Giving time rather than more “stuff” to those I love

·         Offering more resources to mission organizations

·         Recognizing that humility creates more space in my life for God; “empty hands” allow one to receive

·         Remembering that joy is often accompanied by pain, as the Holy family well knew; I must not expect one without the other

Christ is coming.  Our repentance helps prepare us to receive him once again.

                                Molly T. Marshall

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