I always like to watch A Christmas Carol sometime during the holidays (After writing this sentence, I realize how much society has changed as I’m sure that reading the original book by Charles Dickens was what most people use to do!). The story gives us a wonderful look into the life of the fictional Ebeneezer Scrooge, a rich old miser who wouldn't give a glass of water to a man on fire. He sees the ghost of his old friend Jacob Marley which he blames on indigestion. The ghostly Marley tells him that he will be visited in the night by three more ghosts which show him the past, present and future. These visions are not to Scrooge’s liking and he awakens to find that he can change how he treats people and begins to do so.
This is a classic story about repentance. Scrooge repents of his greediness and begins to live generously. This actually makes him a more cheerful person! It makes us wonder how we can end up miserable in the first place. Usually, the problem lies with following the easiest path. For Scrooge, the easiest path was considering only himself. But when we end up focusing on ourselves, we lose sight of all that life has to offer.
|John the Baptist by Mathis Gothart Grunewald.|
The Latin is from John 3:30 which states,
"He must increase, but I must decrease."
This refers to the ministries of Jesus and John.
Much of the time, we don’t consider how our actions may have adverse effects on others. When we hear about repentance, we may think of other worse sinners than ourselves who obviously need to repent more than we do!
Throughout the entire Bible, different people speaking for God have called us to repentance. In Advent, we look at John the Baptist and his call to the Judeans of Jesus’ day. John’s call came before Jesus began his public ministry. In the classic Christian understanding of entering a relationship with Jesus, the confession of sin comes before the profession of faith in Christ. Our model fits the Biblical witness of the call to repentance preceding the ministry of Jesus.
As we continue to take the Advent season seriously, this Sunday, the Revised Common Lectionary's Mark 1:1-8 lets us examine what repentance means for our lives just as we consider what it meant for the people in John’s day. We’ll see how this discipline really does “prepare the way of the Lord” just as John was called to do. Maybe it won’t even take a ghost to scare you into belief!
May you continue to have a holy season as we approach Christmas. Don’t forget to make time for God so that the waiting and the season take on new meaning!