Summary: Getting ready for Christmas - easy. But getting ready for Christ? What does it mean to repent?
:1-6 READY FOR CHRISTMAS! BUT READY FOR CHRIST?
December has to be, by far, the craziest month of the year – wouldn’t you agree? If someone from another planet were to come and watch our world during this month, that visitor would conclude that we have completely lost our minds. Why is this month so crazy? It’s because we are preparing, aren’t we. As the husband balances precariously on his ladder, hanging the icicle lights in just the right spot – he’s preparing. As men and women hit the shopping malls with a high level of intensity and aggressiveness – they’re preparing. As houses become filled with the smell of cookies, and radio stations change around their programming to include old, nostalgic songs about chestnuts and a winter wonderland – people are preparing, because soon, it will be Christmas time.
December is a month of preparation. In the church year, we are also in a season of preparation called “Advent.” Advent is a Latin word which means “approach” or “arrival.” Advent is that time of the year when we prepare for the arrival of Christ. We prepare to celebrate his first arrival, his humble, quiet birth in Bethlehem. But we’re also preparing for his second arrival, when Christ will come in all of his majesty, with the loud, trumpet call of God on Judgment Day.
This month of December is the season of Advent for us Christians. Just as we do all kinds of physical things to prepare for Christmas, we also do spiritual things to prepare ourselves for Christ. It’s easy to prepare for the holiday of Christmas – just look at what other people are doing – you’ll figure it out. But how do you prepare for Christ? It’s a mystery for many people. If you look at the title of our sermon for today, I think it reflects how many people are this time of the year. “I am ready for Christmas! (explanation point) But ready for Christ? (question mark) What does that mean?
There is someone who teaches you how to do this, and he appears every December. No, it’s not Rudolph or Frosty or Santa – it’s “John the Baptist.” He was called that not because he was the founder of the Baptist church. Far from it – John held his “services” in the desert – no chairs, no heater, no robe with decorations – his church was out in the desert, by the Jordan River. And what did he talk about out there? Look at verse 3: “He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” He was called the “baptist” because he encouraged people to be baptized. And, he encouraged people to repent.
This wasn’t his idea. This was his destiny – this was God’s purpose for his life – John was talked about hundreds of years before he lived, as it says in verse 4: “As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: A voice of one calling in the desert, prepare the way for the Lord.” John had been called by God to prepare people for the arrival of the Messiah – Jesus Christ was about to start his public ministry, and John was preparing people, getting them ready. He did that by teaching the people to repent.
Do you know what it means to “repent”? To “repent” means to make a U-turn, to change direction. John was telling the people to change the direction of their lives. They were going one way, unprepared for Christ. John told them to turn their lives around and go the other way.
This, my friends, is how you can prepare for Christ too. Repent. Think of repentance this way – first you identify, and then, you do the opposite. First, you identify what is sinful in your life. This will take some quiet time on your part. Turn off the TV, the radio in your car. Shut down the internet. Take a break from shopping and decorating. And just sit, and think, and identify the weaknesses in your life. What is your weakness, your sin? Are you materialistic? Do you like to be surrounded by things? Are you selfish? Do you have impure, immoral thoughts? Are you impatient with others? Do you say things about other people that you really shouldn’t say? What are your sins? Identify them. This is the first part of repentance. And then the second, do the opposite. Instead of being materialistic, be spiritual. Instead of being selfish, be generous. Instead of being immoral, strive to be pure in your mind. Do the opposite. Change direction in your life. Make a U-turn. That’s repentance.
Ahh, but I left out the most important thing. Do you know what that is? Without this, you’ll never successfully change in your life. You’ll try, and maybe you’ll be successful for awhile. But without the most important thing, you’ll eventually fall back into your old ways, just like someone on a crash diet who eventually gains all the weight back. Do you know what the most important part of repentance is?