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Reflections from Pastor Matthew for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost:

Happy St. Nicholas Day, dear friends!

This day is so full of good memories for me.  In my youth I spent the nights of Dec. 5th in anticipation of treats in my shoe delivered by the "real Santa Claus". Now an adult when I awake the morning of Dec 6th, I am not so excited about chocolate these days, but still feel the excitement of anticipation in the Advent season.

Today, in our Gospel text, John the Baptist fuels that anticipation in me by calling out to us from the wilderness..."Repent!  And Mark further stokes the anticipation by telling us that what is about to happen is only the beginning of the story. Strange isn't it? the way our cycle of celebration of this season points toward Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as the culmination of the whole thing but that is not so.

 

The birth of "God with us" is a new beginning, it is the start of something not the end.  In Jesus God is, again, making good on God's promise to love us, to be with us, to make it possible for us to move beyond the hurt and brokenness that chains us to less than we could be.

But why the call to repentance?  And why the call to go out into the wilderness?  I think God spends a lot of time trying to woo us away from distraction, from a buzzing diversion, the obfuscating bewilderment that is the promise of the secular anti-gospel, "you can succeed, you can reinvent yourself, you can be a winner...just try harder” In the wilderness, that buzzing dies down, the clamour for our attention by banal commercialism and unchecked materialism subsides and becomes as meaningless as it actually is.

 

Out in the wilderness we can meet people like John, we can hear an invitation to repentance which is NOT an indictment of our unworthiness but rather the offer to live into the new thing that God is doing, both at Christmas and always.

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