Sunday, December 13, 2009

R 'n' R

Today is the Third Sunday in the season of Advent. It is also Santa Lucia Day. We hear scripture that calls us to repent and rejoice. It is a day of celebration during a dark and anxious season.

Repenting might not sound very celebratory, but it is the best way to begin rejoicing, worship and a new relationship. We begin our services with confession and forgiveness for this very reason - we come inside God's house and put all the heavy and shameful stuff down before moving toward joy and praise. Because we confess these things, corporately and personally, God releases us from their weight with rich and holy forgiveness.

Repentance might sound like a drag unless we believe and experience the freedom that comes from divine forgiveness. John the Baptizer knew that repenting was necessary for true joy in God, so he preached confession as he prepared the way for Christ's coming. He urged the people to put down the heavy secrets they carried so their hands would be free for godly things and authentic praise.

Today there are plenty of reasons to be afraid and hopeless, but John comes to declare the bright light of faith that taunts the darkness with it's trust in things to come. He announces the one who will echo old prophets and rejoicing angels with strong words: Do not be afraid.

December 13 is also my baptism birthday, which sent me on a scavenger hunt for my baptism candle. I found it at the bottom of my keepsake box, its length proof that there has been no ceremonial lighting since 1981. Today I lit it from the tall Christ candle that stands by our font at St. John's and watched the flame dance. Although it took 28 years to light this candle again, it's flame never really went out. My baptism has called me to repent and rejoice for almost three decades, to move from my own life to the world's needs again and again. That is proof that hope is in the smallest places; water and word poured over an infant invited my small life into God's grand scheme, causing purpose for now and hope for things to come.

Today is a day of light and life, repentance and rejoicing. May the three flames atop the Advent wreath inspire excitement about the things to come and may the flame that dances out of your own baptism burn brightly.