Penitential Advent - Metanoia
Sermon, December 10, 2017
Church of the Advent, Cincinnati
-Amidst the joyful outside energy of the world preparing for Christmas, you'd expect we might be reading the beginning of one of the Christmas narratives. Maybe the annunciation, etc. But instead our lectionary reminds us that we're not there yet.
-instead we have what seems the complete opposite: the grizzled terrifying looking john the baptist not saying "hooray" but saying "repent"! The guy is a total downer!
-John has 2 claims to fame: "prepare the way of the lord" which we talk about this week and next week, and the baptism of Jesus which usually shows up in late Jan or Early Feb. but today I want to highlight something else, and it's that word "repentance".
-Advent is one of 2 of what's called "penitential" seasons, along with Lent which is much better known for being about Sin. But while Advent is about preparing for the birth of Christ and a new beginning, it's about doing that by clearing out the sin in our spiritual houses to make room for the entrance of Christ into our world.
-"penitence" and "repent" come from the Latin for "to feel sorry for". The Greek, however goes deeper. The Greek "metanoia" actually means "second-thought" or "change of heart/mind". That's what repentence really is - it's a complete change of life, a 180 degree shift that changes us from the inside out, not just a smattering of guilt.
-Perhaps it comes at a perfect time. Even those who are not religious, toward the end of the calendar year begin to take stock of themselves and look to change in the new year. We Christians get an early start.
-There's so much individually and collectively that we need to really examine as deep and persistent sin. Sexual harassment, racism, economic injustice, mistreatment of the poor, the immigrant, the refugee, extreme violence, the threat of war, on and on and on until it can get overwhelming. It seems to get worse every day. I know some who wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night over this and so many other truly horrible faults.
-Blue Christmas, sometimes guilt, sorrow or other grief. This may be one way to move toward healing in this Advent season. Take time away, get out of the hustle for a day or a few hours just to pray, spend time with God. Truly repent and make amends to those you may have harmed.
-And get active! Make your voice heard against injustice when and where you see it! Not only repent privately, but call for repentence publicly in politics, in the media, in the economy, in every aspect of society!
-The good news is just as John says - the one who is greater is coming soon! For us that means joy and the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption. Repentence is actually a good and maybe even joyful thing because it means the possibility for a second chance to right what we've done wrong.
-That's the penitential spirit of Advent. Amen