Ascension Lutheran Church

Calgary, AB

Second Sunday in Advent

Matthew 3:1-12

[1] In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, [2] “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” [3] This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’  ”

[4] Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, [6] and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

On this Second Sunday in Advent we read of John the Baptist fulfilling his God-given call to prepare the people for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The preparation was fairly straightforward, the people needed to repent—which simply means to “turn back” to God.

Of course, it is understood that repentance also means to turn away from sin and wrong-doing (which is often how the word is used in our day), but it’s more important that the focus is on who people are turning to rather than what they are turning from. If it’s just a matter of turning from sin, we can spin ourselves in circles because there is no goal in our turning, just an avoidance of a particular sin(s). But if the goal of our turning is God, then it also necessarily means we are turning from sin.

John the Baptist called the people on the banks of the Jordan River (and us today) to turn back to God. That as our attention is placed on Him, we are then ready and best able to hear and receive the grace He has for us.

Of course, repentance isn’t a one-time event. Luther spoke of the need of daily repentance, and there certainly are days when some of us find ourselves needing to turn back to God several times throughout the day.

Repentance is a blessing, not a burden, as it calls us back to the God who loves us more than we love ourselves.