How can we “go to the Jordan” of our own honest confession this Advent?
(Note: To learn more about Advent, read this book.)
Augustine, in The Confessions, talks about how he ignored God and did his own thing for most of his early life. But then he writes, “I was at a later time moved to do well, after my heart had conceived of Your Spirit; but in the former time I was moved to do evil, forsaking You; but You, the One, the Good God, never ceased doing good.”
First, remember that God never ceases doing good for us. Own that. Claim that. Meditate on that. Experience that.
Most of the Pharisees, and almost all of the Sadducees missed out on a chance to experience radical honesty with God, and a release of the guilt and shame that all human beings carry. Not to mention the release of the terrible burden that inordinate pride places on us.
Second, remember that John the Baptist isn’t calling us to find some other group of people to pin the problems of the world on. He is calling the human race to repentance. If I am human, I am called to repentance. We are all in this together. Time to stop trying to blame the liberals, the conservatives, the women, the men, etc, etc, etc. Its time to accept our own part of the fallen world we live in.
John the Baptist, ultimately, wasn’t laying a burden on people. He was taking one off. He was diagnosing our human ailment, and then would point to the healer.
Third, see repentance as a part of healing. It is not a punishment. Quite the opposite. Repentance is freeing.
What is freedom anyway? I’ve never met a recovering drug addict that felt they have less freedom because they can now no longer use. They feel free because they have stayed sober and the addiction has less power over them, freeing them to live a better life.
John the Baptist’s message was a message of freedom from deception about ourselves, and freedom to embrace the One who would come.
God brought us here to this Advent season, at the banks of our own Jordan River. A crazy looking prophet is preaching from the river. Not everyone around us will be honest about their failures and sins…that’s none of our business.
We go down to the water. This water is the water of freedom, softening of our hearts, a new sense of compassion and mercy, a giving up of that which harms us and others, and a taking up of the life God has for us.
As we contemplate our own preparation, the words of Chrystostom ring true, that John the Baptist
does not dwell on the axe alone or the tree that is cut down, burned and thrown into the fire, or the wrath to come, but also of the remission of sins, the removal of punishment, righteousness, sanctification, redemption, adoption and community, a partaking of the inheritance and an abundant supply of the Holy Spirit. For to all these remedies, John implicitly pointed when he said, ‘He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit… …At once, by these words, John witnessed to the abundance of grace.
John’s purpose is to call us to just simply admit that we need salvation, healing, love and grace. To admit that we’ve been blaming others, or hiding away, or allowing shame to weigh us down. And then, he points and says, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
Repent! His advent draws near.