Today, 4 December, is the second week in which, traditionally Christians prepare for Christmas.
But how do we prepare for Christmas?
I can think of no better advice than that given by John the Baptist — his instructions to prepare for Christmas can be condensed into one word: “Repent!”
John in Matthew’s Gospel is the last prophet whose message is that the time has come to repent because the agent through whom God will affect the transformation from this age to the next, the “Kingdom of God”, is now revealed: Jesus.
Repentance, therefore, is the first step towards joining Jesus in the community moving towards the Kingdom.
The root meaning of “to repent” is “to turn” or to have a dramatic change of mind and direction. To repent is turn away from the values and practices of the “world” (e.g., idolatry, violence, injustice, exploitation) and to turn towards God through Jesus Christ and to His Kingdom.
In this context, repentance includes feeling sorry for one’s personal sins, but it is much more. To repent is to take a clear-minded look at the ways in which one’s life colludes and cooperates with the values and behaviors of the fallen world, and turn away from such complicity, and to turn towards God and the attitudes and virtues of the Kingdom.
John the Baptist offers his listeners a choice. They can repent, and join the movement toward the Kingdom, or they can continue to collude with the world and face eternal condemnation at the final judgment.
After repenting, and to further prepare for Christmas, we ought to seek actively to cooperate with God on His purposes. We do this by abiding in Christ, by submitting to the Spirit and by “putting to death” all things earthly that offend God.
Repent and cooperate, that’s how we prepare for Christmas and for Christ in our lives.
When we do not cooperate with God’s purposes, we invite the consequences upon ourselves.
Pastor Robert Chew