Jonathan's Perspective  

Dec 6

'The Challenge and Promise of Christmas'

"John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." (Mark 1:4)

This is a profound message about the nature of preparing for Christ's presence.  The gospel writer boils down John's message to repent in order to receive forgiveness.  This short message holds both the challenge of repentance and the promise of forgiveness.   These two messages are inseparably linked.

Repentance means to turn, to change direction.  In essence, it challenges us to look at the way we are relating, working, and raising our families.  It confronts us with the challenge to humbly evaluate and realize that life without God isn't working out so well It is so easy to evaluate other people's lives; after all, I think I am a pretty good judge of my family's and co-workers flaws.  The problem is that John calls me to put the same scrutiny to my own life, and to judge myself with impunity.  I am not as good at that!  That is so hard to do.  I would rather rationalize, legitimize, overlook, and forgive my weaknesses and sins rather than confess to myself and God that I have messed things up.  The kicker is that repentance is much more than saying "I'm doing it wrong" and asking forgiveness.  Repentance means that I am going to change my future actions and interactions so that I don't repeat the same mistakes, put-downs and abuses.

John begins his message with the challenge of acknowledging our faults and committing to changing our habits.  The promise that quickly follows is that there is a better road to take that will lead us to a better life with God, our families and neighbors.  John was a signpost pointing to Jesus.  He tells us to turn down the road that Jesus is on.  Jesus will show us the way, teach us the truth, and give us the only life worth living.  In fact, Jesus will baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8) in order to help us walk this kingdom road.  When we repent (turn) onto the right road, we will find forgiveness of the past and a path to a healthier future in which we can flourish as the children of God.  This is the promise: that Jesus will help us live the glorious life of God's own children. 

John the Baptist says, '[Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.'(John 3:30)  Seems that John heeded his own advice.  John turned away from serving himself in order to make room for Jesus to increase in his life.  Perhaps this is the basic message of Advent.  Jesus is here, and we have a choice to make.  Are we going to travel down the same worn path that has led to so much misery, or are we going to turn to walk with Jesus and allow the Holy Spirit to give us life that is truly life? 

This transformation is not something that will happen by chance.  It must be chosen.  I know that I need to decide again how I am going to respond to the challenge and promise of John's message.  How about you? Are you ready to walk the Kingdom road with Jesus in order to experience forgiveness and new life?

Blessed to be a blessing,


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