Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Sermon 30th December 2018 – Year C - Christmas 1 - Text: Luke 2:41-52 – Lost and found

Sermon 30th December 2018 – Christmas 1
Text: Luke 2:41-52 – Lost and found

There is nothing that strikes more fear into a parent than when they turn around for a second and see that their child is missing.
It can happen in -
A busy supermarket.
A crowded street.
Going for a walk in a park.
It’s like a vanishing act.
And today there is a condition called “distracted parent syndrome”.
With parents spending more time checking out social media on their mobile phone than watching over their child losing a child is seemingly happening at an alarming rate.
You shudder when you hear on the news of a child gone missing.
Or an attempted abduction of a child.
So you can imagine the horror as Mary and Joseph are travelling along their journey and suddenly realise that their son Jesus is missing.
It makes you wonder how they could have left their pre-teen son behind.
Was there not a headcount to make sure everyone was there?
At the tender age of 12 wasn’t Jesus under more supervision to ensure he was safe.
Sure they were different times to today but we are talking about a 12 year old.
Nevertheless it happens.
And it happens even today with parents forgetting their children in their cars which we’ll no doubt hear a lot about this summer and despite the warnings we’ll scratch our heads and wonder how a parent can forget their child.
With Christmas now just under a week ago you wonder how many people have forgotten Jesus already.
The carols have ended.
The presents have been unwrapped.
Christmas trees and decorations are starting to get dismantled.
The last remnant reminding us of Christmas will be when the bank statement or Visa bill comes next month.
But sadly, to many people, Jesus will be lost.
It’s been happening for many generations now, not just at Christmas.
As people depart from church attendance more and more these past generations, Jesus seems to have been lost to so many of our friends and family.
We might also wonder how this is possible.
Didn’t we raise them right?
Where did we go wrong?
We took them to Sunday School and Confirmation.
Aren’t they concerned about heaven?
But maybe you’ve felt that Jesus is missing from your life as well even though you come to church regularly.
Maybe some struggles you’ve been going through have made it hard to find Jesus at times.
Our Gospel reading shows us a couple things.
Firstly, as we’ve seen in our Gospel reading, it is easy to lose Jesus and not even realise it among the busyness of life.
But secondly we learn that Jesus is where we should expect to find him.
Jesus looks puzzlingly at Mary and says - “Why were you searching for me?” “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”
Jesus is never lost to us even if it feels like it.
Sometimes the worries of life and the busyness of life can distract us but Jesus will always be where he has promised to be.
In your Baptism Jesus promised “I am with you always”.
That’s where Luther returned when he was struggling with his faith and the torment of the devil.
Luther was constantly tormented by Satan, even resorting to throwing an inkwell at him.
But it was when he returned to his Baptism and cried out “I am Baptised” that he discovered the relief he was looking for.
So too you are called to return to your Baptism.
But you are also called to trust the Baptism of your loved ones who seem to have lost Jesus in their lives.
God made a promise in their baptism and as St Paul says in Romans when speaking about his unbelieving Jewish brothers and sisters.
In his concern for them he takes comfort knowing “God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn”.
So keep praying for your loved ones that God will honour his promises.
We also find Jesus where he has promised to be in his body and blood in Holy Communion.
There is the account in Luke’s Gospel of 2 disciples walking the road to Emmaus on the 3rd day of Jesus’ death.
They are downcast because they had lost Jesus.
And even though they are speaking directly to Jesus they don’t see him
Luke says “They stood still, their faces downcast”.
And with despondency they sigh “we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel”.
Even though Jesus is right there talking to them they don’t see him until – Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.
It’s interesting that as soon as their eyes were opened they lost him again.
But this time they weren’t despondent because they knew that despite what their eyes saw, the promise of God’s presence was there with them.
And of course we know that God’s Word is where God can always be found because God’s word is a living word.
John chapter one says that – in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Jesus may be easy to lose at times with everything going on but he is even easier to find as he has made himself available where he has promised to be – in his Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
And that’s why Luther and the Lutheran Church has focused so strongly on Word and Sacrament ministry because worship is not about entertainment.
Although worship can be entertaining – it’s about guiding people to God’s presence to experience the comfort that only God’s presence can bring.
And what joy discovering God’s presence again brings.
Just as when a parent finds their child after going missing it brings great joy just like the father who lost his son.
He thought his prodigal son was dead but was found alive –
Or the shepherd who leaves 99 safe sheep in order to find the one lost sheep and brings him home.
Which suggests to us that Jesus is not the one who is lost but it is we who take ourselves away from him, as did Mary and Joseph.
Jesus was where he was supposed to be – Mary and Joseph left without him.
So let us also rejoice that God has made himself easy to find.
But let us rejoice further that even though sometimes we may lose God from our sight, God never loses us from his sight and is always seeking us to bring us back to him.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Sermon Christmas Day - Paying the unforgivable debt

Christmas Day

I was watching an item on Current Affairs recently which spoke about the growth industry of what is known as Pay Day Loans.
These are short term small loans that people take out with minimum amount of paperwork and the money is in your account almost immediately.
The concern about these types of loans is that they carry a huge percentage of interest but you don’t realise because you’re supposed to pay them back within a couple of weeks.
Those rates are hidden otherwise no one would take out the loan.
They make it sound easy but the rates can be something like 200% per annum.
So some people end up taking out a couple hundred dollars to tide them over and end up never paying it back racking up thousands of dollars for that small couple hundred dollars.
And the newest player in the game is called Afterpay where you can buy something now and pay it off over 4 weeks with no interest which somehow makes people believe they are getting free money – until they miss a payment and pay enormous interest penalties.
As we approached Christmas there has been a huge increase in people applying for Pay Day Loans and Afterpay because they do not want their family to miss out on celebrating the joy of Christmas.
The last thing they want is to see the sad faces on their children missing out but end up with a debt they cannot pay back.
So when you love someone you will do anything to avoid seeing their disappointment even sacrificing and going without yourself.
As we read about God’s love for us that is exactly what we see behind the message of Christmas.
We had a debt that we could not pay back to God.
The Bible says that the wages of sin is death and that debt was never going to be paid by us.
But we read in John 3:16 that God loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son so that whoever believed in him would not die but receive eternal life.
God’s love saw him sacrifice everything for us.
So, now, as we again read that the wages of sin is death, what immediately follows is - but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God has given to us the greatest Christmas gift anyone could ever give – eternal life - but it cost God dearly – the death of his Son.
We carried a debt that only God could pay off and he did so.
As we celebrate Christmas again this year let us take a moment to remember what it is that we are celebrating.
We are celebrating God’s gift of Jesus Christ who brings to us the gift of eternal life.
We are celebrating that the debt that we owed to God – a debt that we could never pay off has been satisfied in full.
It is a debt that we can say is unfair because we were born with it and there was nothing we could do to avoid it.
Or we can with gratitude thank God that his Son, Jesus Christ our lord, who did not deserve death was willing to give up his throne in heaven to descend to earth and take upon himself our entire debt.
Christmas gifts, Christmas feasts, Christmas joy, all help us to feel so amazing as we gather to celebrate each year.
But it’s the true gift – the gift of Jesus Christ, it’s the true feast – the feast of Jesus body and blood give for us – and the true Joy that was sung by the choir of angels at Jesus birth that is going to sustain us for the other 364 days of the year.
So as you celebrate this Christmas, take the time to remember what it is you’re celebrating.
Take a moment to remember why you’re celebrating.
Christmas is God’s own gift to you of his Son who gave up all that he had so that you could have all that he has to give.

Sermon - Christmas Eve - Keeping the story alive

Christmas Eve
Every year the excitement builds to that special time of the year.
Children are fascinated by the presents starting to appear wondering what that gift with their name on it might be.
Some have been on secret hunts looking to see if they can find where their presents are hidden to get a sneak peek at what they’re getting for Christmas.
Christmas is a time of passing down traditions.
The chances are that you’re living out the traditions that your parents passed on to you and in a generation or 2 your children and grand children will be living out and passing on the same traditions.
Some gather Christmas Eve to give out presents.
Others wait till Christmas morning and let the children wake up and come into a gift filled lounge room.
Some will insist on going to church first and when they arrive home the gifts have magically arrived.
Likewise in churches traditions continue with Sunday School children dressing up as Shepherds, angels, wise men and other players in the nativity.
And it’s those traditions that keep the spirit of Christmas alive and well in our families and churches.
And we need to do that as the world around us continues to try and break down our traditions by removing carols and Christmas greetings from the public sphere.
Every year it gets harder to fit everything in to those 365 days – 366 if we’re lucky.
But let us make sure that we never fail to pass on to future generations what has been passed onto us so faithfully.
The Christmas tradition of story telling again the birth of Jesus Christ.
TV will have a variety of other stories to tell.
As a youngster I grew up with them – Miracle on 34th Street where people believed we were celebrating the birth of Santa rather than Jesus Christ.
Or celebrities showing of their singing skills on Carols by Candlelight which is more about focusing on themselves and their talents singing songs which barely mentioned the birth of Jesus.
And so we owe it to our children and future generations to ensure that these traditions continue because we are going to face more and more pressures to change the way we celebrate Christmas.
Whether it’s saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas
Or whether it’s celebrating Santa rather than the birth of Christ.
Or singing Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer or Santa Clause is coming to town instead of the deeply theological carols like Silent Night or O Come all Ye Faithful.
We owe it to ourselves – we owe it to our children and future generations.
We owe it to God to ensure that the story is told again and again.
It is such a simple story to pass on – God ensured that.
When he sent the angels to the shepherds he made it simple:
The angels appeared to the shepherds and said: Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
How simple- a Saviour – the promised messiah – and this will be the sign – you’ll find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.
Let us keep that message alive.
Let us keep that message simple.
Let us keep telling the story year in and year out.
It doesn’t get old, or stale or boring.
It is the birth of God’s Son.
It is the birth of our Saviour.
It is the birth of all our hopes and dreams that God loves us.
May God bless you again this year as you keep the story alive.

Sermon 23rd December 2018 - Year C - 4th Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 1:39-45 - Joy in Jesus' presence

Text: Luke 1: In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord."

As Christmas draws near children begin to get very excited.
They started the countdown a while ago perhaps using an Advent Calendar to help them count down the days.
As the “how many sleeps to go” gets into single digits each day gets more and more exciting as Christmas day and Jesus’ birth draws near.
This is what we see happening in our Gospel reading today as Jesus draws near to John the Baptist.
Even though neither Jesus or John have yet been born the excitement cannot be contained.
Elizabeth asks: Why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
There is a joy that only the presence of Jesus can bring.
And this is not just speaking about Christmas but in all life.
As St Paul said last week – rejoice in the Lord always – the Lord is near.
When going through times of difficulties and uncertainty there is an amazing peace that comes to us when  we spend time with Jesus;
When we take time to pray.
When we pick up our bibles and read a passage that seems to have been written just for us.
When we hold out our hand and receive Jesus body and blood.
And there is a comfort also that only Jesus’ nearness can bring when facing a chronic situation such as an impending death or incurable sickness knowing that the time draws near when we, or a loved one, will be free from the suffering and be with Jesus in heaven.
Nothing else can bring that peace as, again St Paul said last week, the peace of God that surpasses ALL understanding will guard and watch over your hearts and minds.
Amidst all that, however, we’re living in a world that has a seemingly growing distance from God.
The growing tensions in the world through political turmoil – and you only need to look at some of our close neighbours like Britain and America to see those political tensions.
The tensions in the world through terrorism, and again in recent times in Paris.
Or the tensions of warfare and other forms of fighting such as in Yemen and the Middle East.
And then there is the growing immorality of the world and we don’t need to look beyond our own borders to see the violence, crime, drugs and sex to see that our world seems to be drifting further and further away from God rather than drawing nearer.
And there is the growing decline of respect for the church and anything to do with God with the attack on religious freedoms.
Like Jesus at his crucifixion I’m sure you’ve cried out very similar – my God, my God, why have you forsaken me.
Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 which continues: Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,     by night, but I find no rest.
As we read again today’s gospel reading we are reminded that as the world removes itself further and further away from God, God does not remove himself from us.
It was Mary and Jesus who went to see Elizabeth and John whereby Elizabeth is amazed that she should be so honoured.
And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?
Just as John the Baptist would later ask too when Jesus comes to him to be baptised:
You come to me? It is I who should be baptised by you.
And so we understand that it is always God who is moving towards us, even as we move away from him.
Maybe we’d be surprised to know that despite how the world has treated Jesus God continues to love us and be with us.
After all, that is what he promised, both at his birth when the angel said: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
And also Jesus as he ascends to heaven and promises the disciples “I am with you always till the end of the age.
This is why we rejoice at Christmas because it is God coming to us and expressing just how much he loves us as he loved the world so much that he sent his one and only Son to us.
And even though there was nothing to love about us it was while we were yet sinners that Christ came and died for us.
So we can be assured that there is nothing that we can do that will remove God and his love from us.
And this is now what God sends us to do.
To go into the world and love the unlovable.
To be the love of God to others even in those times when others would walk away.
Love bears qualities that the world doesn’t understand.
Christian love begins where worldly love ends.
It is characterised as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
It is disheartening at times as we see the growing secularisation of our world.
But we are thankful that God never gives up.
He weeps with us as Jesus did when he saw his own people distancing themselves from God:
"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
Christmas reminds us that God is not “up there” but here with us.
Christmas reminds us that in the midst of the darkness of our world God sent his Son to be the light of the world.
We live in a sinful world but let us remember that he would be called Jesus because he would save God’s people from their sin.
And that God did not send his son to condemn the world but to save the world through him.
And that is our mission – that is God’s mission.
To bring Jesus into the hearts of people and to be Jesus in the hearts of people by loving our neighbour as ourselves.
To many Christmas can be a difficult time as it highlights their hurts, their grief, their poverty, their loneliness.
And we can be Jesus to them as he says as much as you do to one of the least of these you do it unto me.
A blessed Christmas to you all as you take baby Jesus again into the world.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Sermon 16th December 2018 - Year C - 3rd Sunday in Advent - Text: Luke 3:7-18 – Preparing by repenting

Sermon 16th December 2018 – Advent 3
Text: Luke 3:7-18 – Preparing by repenting

Nine days to Christmas.
No doubt like everyone else you are madly getting ready for your Christmas celebrations.
It’s such a magic time of the year.
The choir of angels, Christmas trees, tinsel, carols, and all the things associated with Christmas as we wait for Jesus to arrive.
But the scene set by John as the people are waiting for Jesus to arrive is much different to the shine and glitter we see in our churches and shopping centres.
Today we welcome John the Baptist, dirty from the dusty desert, with his camel hair coat, eating locusts and wild honey.
He doesn’t come with a message of joy and celebration but greets the people with - "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
We don’t have the joy and goodwill as the people wait for their long awaited saviour.
We have John the Baptist’s preaching condemnation of sin, calling for repentance in preparing for the coming of the Messiah that God had promised.
He tells the people to bear fruits worthy of repentance.
Is that really what we see as the Christmas Spirit?
John was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus and that is exactly what he is doing as he fulfils what Jesus came for.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus were born for a purpose.
John, to prepare the way for Jesus.
In regards to Jesus, the angel said to Joseph that Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
So many believe talking about sin at Christmas time in inappropriate.
Sometimes we can forget that Christmas has a purpose and that purpose was to reconcile our broken relationship with God.
I love the Christmas celebrations and all the trimmings as much as anyone but I never want to forget that Jesus’ birth means that my life has been set right with God.
In order to understand that we need to remember what it is that caused that breakdown in our relationship with God which was our sin.
This is not the message that we tend to hear at Christmas.
How many Christmas cards have you received that have John the Baptist as the central figure?
He is the total opposite of the imagery of Father Christmas.- jolly, joyful, nicely dressed in his red suit calling out “Ho Ho Ho” – all the while the true message of Christmas being “Hope Hope Hope”
We see decorations around the shopping centres that have messages like Paul spoke today – Rejoice.
The difference is that Paul told us what to rejoice in – Rejoice in the Lord.
And how many decorations share John’s call to ‘repent’?
Even our Advent Candles miss that with Hope Peace Joy and Love’
When was the last time you greeted someone with the Christmas greeting of “you brood of vipers”.
I'm sure you would be quite shocked with a greeting like that.
We can’t even say – Merry Christmas for fear of offending someone.
John the Baptist seems so out of place as we get caught up singing carols about the baby in the manger, the joy of the shepherds, the visit of the Wisemen, the excitement of giving and receiving gifts, having relatives and friends over for Christmas,
And yet John the Baptist appears in all 4 gospels to introduce Jesus and that suggests that there is no Christmas joy without John’s harsh message of repentance coming first.
And that’s because John the Baptist tells us that we so desperately need God.
"Repent!" says John the Baptist.
It’s not a cheery message that we might expect at this time of celebration.
No one likes to be reminded that they are sinners and yet that is the message of Christmas as John calls us to repent.
It might sound like doom and gloom that makes John seem more like the Grinch that stole Christmas than a person preparing us for Jesus’ birth.
But there is so much joy that Christmas brings that John wants us to truly understand and prepare for what that joy is all about.
Otherwise Christmas will be something that lasts for a few days and then we pack everything away and get back to the daily grind and Christmas if forgotten.
Advent is a time of preparation to welcome Jesus Christ.
And having John the Baptist as the central figure of Advent reminds us that our own Baptism is how we are to prepare to welcome Jesus Christ into our lives.
What we wait for during Advent is the forgiving grace of God in Jesus Christ.
But how can we receive forgiving grace without sin – and how can sin prepare for grace without repentance.
That’s the good news – despite the harsh message that John preaches.
That the baby born in Bethlehem is our Lord and Saviour who died for our forgiveness.
There is no greater Christmas gift.
And the good news for us is that even though our sin caused our separation from God, our baptism by God has made us right in the sight of God.
There is nothing we have to do – there is nothing we can do – God has done it all by preparing our lives through our Baptism..
That’s why John says to the people - Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'
Because that’s not going to do anything.
But that’s how the people tried to fix their relationship with God –
I’m not a bad person;
There are worse people than me.
Nobody’s perfect;
I haven’t murdered anyone.
But John is saying that’s not how it goes.
God has prepared the way through our baptism to welcome Jesus Christ into our lives.
God wants us to celebrate the birth of Jesus – just as he sent the choir of angels to sing to the shepherds at his birth.
But what are we celebrating if we are not celebrating Jesus Christ saving us from our sins.
Just as John confronted the people of Israel with their sinfulness on the banks of the Jordan, God confronts us today.
As we take a close look at our lives we can see that we have failed to bear the good fruit that God demands – the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
We have failed to keep the Great Commandment – Love God with all your heart – love your neighbour as yourself.
We need to hear again the call to repentance each day as Luther said when explaining Baptism – each day we are to drown the Old Adam in the waters of our baptism through repentance so a new self arises.
There is no greater time of joy, peace and love than celebrating the birth of baby Jesus in the manger.
This infant son of God throws up romantic pictures when we see the images on Christmas cards but we must remember that his true purpose is that he saves us from the punishment we deserve - he died on a cross for our forgiveness.
Mary will call him Jesus because he will save us from our sins.
But to see who that child is and the value he has for us, we must hear what John the Baptist has to say.
Let us listen carefully to John the Baptist and his call to repent.
Let us look at our lives and confess to the way we have treated others unjustly and unfairly, the times we have gone away from God,
When we’ve found worship and prayer too hard to fit into our busy lives,
The pride that puts us above others,
Our insensitivity to the hurts around us,
It’s not easy to face up to our failings.
But repentance means exactly that.
It means confessing our sins and handing them over to God to heal, restore, forgive, and make a fresh start.
Repentance is an act of faith, an act of surrender to God who wants all people to be saved which is why he sent Jesus because he would save us from our sins.
At this time of the year when the world is working so hard to be happy and merry, let us find true joy as we rejoice in the Lord always.
Christmas is not rejoicing just one day – it’s rejoicing in the Lord always.
Repentance is letting go of our sin and letting God fill us with his peace.
Let us see Christmas as the gift God has given us in the manger in Bethlehem and on the cross of Calvary.
It is the gift that keeps on giving not just on December 25th.
Let us rejoice in the Lord always because the Lord is near.
Let us not worry about anything, and let the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Sermon 9th December 2018 - Year C - 2nd Sunday in Advent - Text Luke 3:1-6 - Repenting preparedness

Sermon 9th December 2018
Text: Luke 3:1-6 – Repenting preparedness

When preparing for an interview a couple questions you know you’re going to get are – what are your strengths – what are your weaknesses.
If you’re like most people you have no problem with the first question.
We are pretty good at looking at our lives and the things we’re good at.
In fact many are probably now getting their Christmas letters ready to tell all their friends and relatives about all the great things that have happened this year and all the great things they and their children have been up to.
But it’s the 2nd part that we’re not that good at.
We’re not that good at admitting our weaknesses.
In fact sometimes we’re not even comfortable calling them our “weaknesses” and will refer to them as our “work areas”.
Maybe it’s our human nature that doesn’t like to think of where we are deficient.
Like a boxer looking for that opening in his opponent’s defence to strike that blow, maybe we are worried about losing that reputation or character that we have that everyone admires that we have been protecting.
Are we afraid that people will think less of us if they really knew that we are not that perfect?
Imperfections or weaknesses, whatever you want to call them, make us feel uncomfortable.
We don’t like to discuss them with each other.
Husbands and wives don’t like to hear that their relationship is not that perfect and often refuse counselling because it is an admission that things aren’t right.
John the Baptist’s message today was also a hard message for the people to hear.
He came preaching a message of repentance.
Repentance is an acknowledgement that things are not perfect in our lives before God.
And even though we know that God forgives sins, sometimes it’s hard to confess our sins.
We like to either ignore them – make excuses for them – justify them – compare them to worse things that other people are doing.
We are much more comfortable confessing our sins in a group situation, as we did this morning by confessing our sins along with everyone else.
We use the same words and feel some safety among numbers – we’re all in the same boat together.
But don’t ask me to do private confession – that’s not the Lutheran thing to do – or is it just too painful to hear our own failings.
Think of Adam and Eve.
Instead of repenting their own failure they pointed the finger:
Adam blamed Eve and God – the woman YOU gave me.
Eve blamed the snake – he tricked me!
Likewise Judas was unable to face up to his betrayal of Jesus and took his own life. (Matthew 27:1-5)
St Peter couldn’t bear the pain of having Jesus seeing his failures when Jesus called him to be one of his disciples - “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  (Luke 5:8).
John comes today to remind us of our own failings before God – to confront us – to afflict us – to discomfort us.
But this is good!
This is the whole reason that we celebrate Christmas.
The bible reminds us that it was while we were yet sinners that God sent Jesus into the world for us (Romans 5:8).
Repentance is to help us to reflect on our lives and see we are going the wrong way – not to bring us down but to rebuild our lives by turning back to God.
The message of John is not to make us feel unworthy in any way but to give us hope.
The purpose of John’s message was not to highlight our deficiencies but to prepare our lives to receive the love of God in all its fullness.
John did that through Baptism.
When we are baptised it is there for 2 services.
First to remove the sin that we are born with because of our humanity.
It is an acknowledgment that our lives are not perfect from the beginning as Psalm 51 reminds us:
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5).
The 2nd service it provides is as something we can continually go back to.
When we are weighed down by guilt – when we have doubts about our relationship with God – when we feel as if we have little or no worth – we remind ourselves that “I am a baptised child of God”.
And even if the whole world is against me – I know that God – the one to whom all the world will bow down to – loves me.
When the whole world tells me I am not good enough – my baptism reminds me that I am so valued by God that he sacrificed his own son just for me.
Repentance is not the fear of God.
Repentance is not conviction of sin.
Every day is a day of repentance.
Every day is a day of turning to God.
We can’t live in moral perfection, but we can live a continual personal relationship with God; whereby we continually repent of our sins and turn toward him every day.
God has not given up on us because of our failures and never will.
When we repent wonderful things happen:
God restores us to life, he restores us to spiritual health, he restores us to a relationship with him and with others, and he clears the air.
The greatest joy in life is to be forgiven and to walk in grace and mercy knowing that God loves and cares for you.
The Bible says that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner's repentance than over 99 people who have no need to repent. (Luke 15:7)
Repentance is a gift from God that we can use in everyday life.
Not just in our relationship with God but also with one another.
Husbands and wives can use repentance to strengthen their relationship.
Communities where people resort to road rage and violence when they are hurt can learn to repent and forgive.
Even God repents.
When God was going to destroy Nineveh because of their evil he saw how sorry they were for their wrongdoing and it says that: God saw that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them. (Jonah 3:10 KJV).
We live in a world that has forgotten how to forgive and be forgiven.
Let us show the world how to repent and be forgiven and then extend that same forgiveness to one another.
Let us be the messenger to prepare the way for Jesus to come into the lives of others so all will see the love of God in us and in them.