Here is my article published in the December 14, 2017 Camrose Canadian Clergy Comment column.
Advent and the “R” word
We are now in the season of Advent, the season traditionally observed as a time of preparation for celebrating the coming of Jesus the Messiah.
One way of preparing is by focusing on the “R” word—repentance. Last Sunday, Christians who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, heard the Gospel of Mark, chapter one, verses one to eight—John the baptizer’s preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John comes across as a rather eccentric wilderness prophet, dressing like I did back in my hippie days of the 1960s and early 70s, and following a rather strange diet of locusts and wild honey. However, he takes his call seriously as a second Elijah, preparing folks for the Messiah’s coming, like a broken record, wearing out the “R” word.
What is repentance anyway, and why is it so necessary? The Bible describes repentance in several ways, including: to regret one’s mistakes and harmful thoughts, words and actions, to change one’s mind and behaviour, to turn around, to return. Repentance is necessary since whether we want to admit it or not, we are all sinners—we think and say and do things that are harmful to others, ourselves, God’s creation, and all of this can and often does cause us to drift further away from God.
The following story is one example of what it means to repent. Some years ago, CBC’s “Fifth Estate” program aired a documentary on “the Squamish Five.” You may remember that they were a group who bombed the Litton plant, which was involved in the production of nuclear weapons. They also bombed other political targets.
Eventually the police caught them and they were then convicted and sent to prison.
In the interview with Juliet Caroline Belmas, she admitted that the group’s actions were wrong. She also discouraged others from following their example. Juliet Caroline Belmas’s change of heart was a public expression of repentance—realizing her sins and genuinely wishing to clean up her act. Those who sincerely repent are like Juliet; showing remorse for the sins committed, and sorry enough to quit the destructive behaviours; and helping to prevent others from making the same mistakes.
This Advent, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus our Messiah’s coming at Christmas do you and I need to reorient, return, change our thinking and behaviours?
May the grace of God help us so to do as we share the love and joy that Jesus gives us with the world this Christmas!