So it’s starting to look a lot like Christmas out there! The church has been decorated and I have a funny feeling that many gifts have been bought (you know, because we just passed Black Friday), and we are looking ahead to the Christmas season (which technically doesn’t start until December 25)! So bring on the Christmas spirit! The spirit of joy, the spirit of hope, the spirit of telling-everyone-about-the-war-on-Christmas-and-putting-others-down-who-don’t-celebrate-it-right-and-reminding-people-of-how-it’s-actually-Advent-now-and-not-Christmas-so-we-should-all-wait-until-the-actual-Christmas-season-before-even-saying-Merry-Christmas-to-anyone…
Of course, I jest. But the sad part is that for many, this is actually a reality.
It’s a reality that people are angry for not celebrating Christmas “correctly”. It’s a reality that people will shun others for saying “X-mas”. It’s a reality that people will not buy a Starbucks coffee not because of their gross overpricing, but because their cups don’t fit the narrow view of what a Christmas cup should look like.
And to that, I have to say, bah humbug (wait, is that the correct term?). Not because people shouldn’t be free to express their faith and worship, but exactly because people should be free to express their faith and worship. People want to celebrate Christmas early? Cool. People want to buy an overpriced coffee in a plain red mug with no Christmas-y font on them? Let them. People want to save ink and typing type by abbreviating it to X-mas? There are no issues there (in fact, some would argue that the X-mas is more correct in that the ‘x’ is the proper abbreviation for Christ in the original Greek).
But it’s hard to change people, isn’t it? So it’s a good thing that it isn’t really our job to do so.
Let’s look at next week’s readings.
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near!” it’s so hard to say that without sounding judgey, am I right? (Same goes for calling people a ‘brood of vipers’)
It sounds judgey because we typically hear “you’re not good enough” when someone tells us to repent. And we don’t like it. We don’t like to be pointed out our shortcomings, nor do we like being told what to do on that kind of personal level. So typically we shy away from people telling us to repent. We smile and nod politely and give empty promises that we’ll get right on that repenting. We avoid any situation that may have the potential of being judged, because really, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Which would be unfortunate, though, as “repent” isn’t really supposed to be judgey.
Rather, “repent” means “to be changed”. Essentially, “to turn around”. To repent is to change one’s mind about a particular thing, and in this case it is to change our outlook on ourselves, our faith, and our God in our God’s place.
What does all this mean?
John the baptizer is asking us to change our sometimes narrow views and open them up to see what God is doing in our world. John the follower of Jesus is asking us allow God to change us from within, that our eyes may be opened to different expressions of love and worship. John, the crazy man from the wilderness that has a questionable diet, is asking us to open our minds and hearts, that we may see and recognise God at work, doing new things in our lives and communities.
You know, repent.
While this may seem like a hard thing to do, it is actually quite exciting. It is exciting to see what God is doing. It is exciting to see how we fit in to God’s great plan. It is exciting to see and realise that even in the midst of a dark and cold world there is hope. Hope in life. Hope in peace. Hope in joy and love, that our God is a God who holds us dear and unites us as one eternal body of Christ.
Yes, repent. For the kingdom is way closer than we think.
Peace be with you all. And Merry Christmas!