God’s Christmas Wish List (Part Two)

Sermon Reflection for Sunday, December 9, 2018 | respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood 

On the Second Sunday of Advent, Mo. Mary continued her series on God’s Christmas wish list for his children. Our great gift from God on the First Sunday of Advent was Redemption, the wondrous gift of cleansing us from all that separates us from God.  In today’s message, the second gift on God’s list is Repentance.  In the Gospel for the day from Luke, the story is told of John the Baptist proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, whereby we can gain redemption and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.

The gift of repentance is offered to us at another time other than Advent during the year – the season of Lent.  Mo. Mary said it must be a very important gift indeed if God offers it during two very important seasons of our liturgical year.  She offered some concern that we may not fully understand the depth of meaning of this great gift.  First on her list of concerns is that the word our Bible uses in translation from the original is way too small to fully explain its meaning.  Late in the 19th century, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was translated from Hebrew and Greek into English.  Episcopal priest Treadwell Walden wrote a series of essays critical of the limited scope of the translation, claiming it did not go far enough to capture the enormity of the concepts of the original.  Specifically, repentance is much more than the common understanding of feeling guilty and sorry for the sins we commit.  That feeling encourages fear and foreboding,  creating a state of mind of sorrow and failure.  Walden said sorrow and fear do not engage us to embrace Christian ethics or manifest the goodness to which God calls us.  It is God’s spirit in us that moves us to embrace what is right and true, not a set of rules to which we can never successfully meet.  The original Greek word that better describes God’s living, growing spirit that calls us to goodness is metanoia.

Walden describes metanoia as the spirit growing within and around a mind that is gradually educated up to the divine standard.  What is that divine standard?  It is the nature wide open in front – every faculty enlightened, every feeling inspired, the entire being engaged.  Metanoia is conviction, not excitement; earnestness, not impulse; habitude, not paroxysm.  It is the heart tempered by the understanding and warmth of the guidance of the Holy Spirit, available to all who seek it.

Mo. Mary said metanoia is a gift she doesn’t want to miss.  Neither does she want any of us to miss it, so she urged us to put it on our Christmas list and live into God’s gift of metanoia.  Maybe it will look like a robe of righteousness; maybe the confidence of God-esteem as opposed to self-esteem; maybe God’s forgiveness and mercy flowing through us to others before they ask for it; maybe bringing God’s love to the face of hatred, evil, and injustice.  In any case, Mo. Mary said it will definitely look like a life of freedom from shame and a life of wholeness and integrity, free to become the people God created us to be.  It’s an astoundingly beautiful Christmas package, a gift that eternally keeps on giving.

In this beautiful season of Advent, are you preparing to receive it?