Third Week in Advent Reflection: Repent and Rejoice

Advent Devotion – December 11, 2015

By Elder Larry Davis

We are on schedule. The third Sunday in Advent is upon us, and soon we will reach Christmas morning, again . . . right on schedule. It is time once again for God to present his son to us in the form of the baby Jesus, and it is our turn once again to express the hope of saving grace revealed through this Son of God. In keeping with our tradition, it is a special time for worship and for singing, for lighting the joy candle on the Advent wreath to represent our transition from expectation to celebration.

As usual, the stores and commercial establishments were way ahead of schedule. We started to see the Christmas decorations and goods as soon as the Halloween costumes were taken off the shelves. People complain each year that the stores are “pushing the season”, implying that it is too soon in relation to our schedules. Shortly after we see the store decorations go up we start to see the “Keep Christ in Christmas” messages appear, mostly on the backs of automobiles. We often hear that we have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

In our reading for this third Sunday of Advent – Luke 3:7-18 – we see crowds of people pushing the season, getting ahead of schedule, prompting John the Baptist to utter his “brood of vipers” exhortation. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” When the crowd asks what they should do, John replies: ”The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.” To the tax collectors: “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” and to the soldiers: “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely – be content with your pay.” Luke then tells us, “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.” But it was too soon. John proceeds to tell the crowds, in effect, they have not seen anything yet. “One more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

John the Baptist provides for us a reminder that it is not enough to fall back on our traditions and our heritage during this season. He has told us that to expect Christ is to repent and change our patterns of behavior. The message now is not about keeping Christ in Christmas, but it is significantly about living our lives in Christ. Christ has always been in Christmas – in the marketplace as well as our family gatherings – just as he is with us throughout the year and for all time, and prophetically we have not seen anything like that which is to come. This is why we celebrate this week, and light the candle of joy, so that we may rejoice, once again, in his living presence among us and within us.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)