Dec 16, 2018 Advent 3 Year C- “Repent or are you insane?”
Repent- means to stop what you’re doing and turn around. The Greek word “metanoia” would literally translate today as U-turn. It was the Greek word for the mathematical calculation of 180 degrees. If your facing south and you turn 180 degrees, you’re now facing north.
So many of us are looking for serenity in the midst of the insanity of this Christmas season (sometimes life in general it’s just Christmas somehow makes it even more so) how many of us would listen to John and say “Hey I think he’s on to something.” All I need to do is stop in my tracks the direction I’m headed and turn around and go back the other way?
Serenity and Insanity. There’s a fine line between them. I like the old coffee mug- I don’t suffer from insanity…I enjoy every minute of it! While insanity might be enjoyable for a moment its never healthy long term.
Today we have texts that wish us sanity by questioning our direction.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing under the same circumstances and expecting different results. Christmas preparations are horrible!! Nothing points out my faults as a recovering procrastinator better than the season of Christmas: the stockings, the lights, the cookies, the cards, the presents. Never seem to be able to get any of done on time. If I hadn’t married a planner I'd be lost.
Even with her help I still feel lost. I wonder how many of us get lost at Christmas? Perhaps its getting lost in the lists: this to do, there to be, that to get... Perhaps it’s getting lost in the memories: the remember whens… that won't be relived. Perhaps it’s the feelings of loss when you have expectations that won't be met.
We tend to think Christmas is the sole owner of this mixture of anticipation, excitement and garbled expectations. Way before Christmas in biblical times there was a similar atmosphere. There were great expectations for the Messiah, for the day of the Lord.
Prophets said it wouldn't be all good news. John the Baptist reminded people that God can make ancestors out of stone. Just being related to someone religious in your family tree won't be your ticket into the Kingdom of God. Perhaps was John that coined the phrase "God has no grandchildren only sons and daughters."
But how does one no get lost at Christmas? How does one keep their sanity? How does one become a son or daughter of the Kingdom? John answered that question w…just one word "Repent!" Repent not just in words but by living it. Sounds great, but people must have heard it as insane. Think of it, many in his audience were subsistence farmers just getting by. John tells them to share their food with others. “Are you crazy we barely exist?!” He told tax collectors not to take more than they're supposed. The whole idea of collecting taxes was taking your cut off the top! You can practically hear them saying "I'm supposed not take my cut-how can exist on that! Are you insane?!'”
Insanity is trying the same solution to the same problem with the same circumstances and expecting differing results. The people listening John the Baptist were caught by the fact that his insanity made sense. Soldiers had bullied people for years thinking, “It’s tough thankless job that no one appreciates so they'll make others appreciate them by imposing on them-with the opposite effect. What if they didn't bully but instead humbly served the civilians? Would it lead a better way?
Tax collectors were hated, despised as traitors and cheats. To insulate themselves against such scorn they heaped up their cut on the taxes collected by raising the tax. Thus, allowing themselves live in prosperity while their neighbor labored in poverty. Would lowering the taxes to a livable level change things? Would living in mediocrity mend fences?
For thousands of years we have now seen that Christian serenity brings. For when in places conflict people begin taking and eye for an eye-just taking the just revenge-only ends up with a population of blind people. The way of repentance and forgiveness the way of grace and new possibilities.
If you’re lost this Christmas season, try serenity instead of insanity. Serenity that word the twelve-step program has come to find as the thing to strive for. Not the perfect life, nor the best of circumstances, not even the fixing of problems or the elimination of problems but the peace of mind that allows you to function, that allows us to enjoy one day at a time.
The first step serenity is surrender-that is true repentance, to let go and confess and leave God's feet. I have a poster given me by a member that I hang above my desk "Good morning this God I will be handling all of your problems today. will not need your help. So relax and have a great day.
What can we do that going be better an what God does?! Stop the insanity of trying the same thing to solve the same problems with the same solution. Invite God into the equation, expect God to be part the equation! This not works righteousness but letting God's righteousness shine through. That wisdom of God that guides us through having the courage to change wh we can and the wisdom to know what we can’t and to hand over what we can’t change to God.
I found a glimpse of sanity week when I told friends in a somewhat panic “We haven’t even got the Christmas cards out yet.” Their response was “we don't send them.” HOW?? They had surrendered that item long ago and found life goes on without it.
Repent- stop doing the same old same old-turnaround-give it up-give it over-give it to God. Let go and start letting God set the agenda for your Christmas. Let God set the agenda for YOUR Christmas and for your life. How much do we hang on to saying “We just can’t …” and in so doing keep the insanity going never letting a moment of God’s serenity slip in.
Perhaps we could be just insane just long enough to listen to John's words cut through the chaos… STOP! Turn around, repent! Let God change our ways and guide our days not commercials, traditions, or even well-meaning family members.
Yes, Christmas coming! But that simply means Christ is coming. It’s not about the cards, the packages, boxes or bags. Christ can come without ribbons, or tags. Wouldn’t it be great if we were ready inside rather than outside? Christmas is coming the same for all of us, Christ is coming… for some of us sooner than for others. Are we truly prepared for either or neither? The best prepared are those that surrender to God. Repent and then live repentance by the Grace of God.
And May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.