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The R in Glory is Repent
December 18, 1988

LUKE 1:46-55

Christmas is for children. But look at what we do to children. Senator Pat Moynihan wrote in The New York Times, roughly half of our children and this is United States children, roughly half of our children are born without a fair chance. About ten years ago, we became the first nation in which the poorest group in the population was the children. About one child in four is poor. And over time, he says, upwards of one in three children in the United States will be on welfare. One in three. We're talking about children who are hardly to blame for being born poor. Our society needs to make changes in our priorities and make significant improvements to daycare, our schools, and housing for our people.

When Mary was greeted by her cousin Elizabeth, she responded with the magnificent poem, appropriately called the Magnificat. Her words resound through the centuries, you heard Roberta read them so well. These words resound through the centuries and they express both hope and the judgment of God. “The Lord has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud and the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree, he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich, he has sent empty away.” That's the judgment. That's also the hope of the world. In the face of Mary's hope, in the face of God's judgment, we are called as individuals and as a society, as a nation to make changes, to repent.

Repent. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus. He announced the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist was the booster rocket in launching the ministry of Jesus. He appeared only briefly at the beginning, kind of a first stage rocket to get things off the ground, blasting away with a message of judgment and repentance. John's message was relatively simple, “Clean up your act so you can receive the Messiah.” The biblical word for clean up your act is repent. When Jesus began his public ministry, he began by accepting the baptism of John. Then after spending 40 days in the wilderness struggling with his mission and with his purpose, Jesus, according to the gospel of Mark came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Repent.

I often tell couples who are planning to marry that you cannot change each other. You can't change him. And you can't change her. And that's true. We can't change other people. Many of us would save ourselves a great deal of misery if we would accept the fact that we cannot change other people. But we can change ourselves. You can change yourself. With the power of God you can repent, clean up your act and make changes in yourself. In fact, probably your lack of willingness to look at yourself in honesty, and your lack of willingness to repent is why your friendships, or your marriage, or your family life, or your relationship to God is not overflowing this Christmas with splendor, with beauty and with glory. There's some changes that must be made. There's some repentance that must go on.

How do we make changes? How do you repent? One meaning of repentance is to let go, let go of whatever is blocking God, let go of whatever is hindering God from moving in your life, let go of whatever is creating barriers between you and those you love. Let go. Some tax collectors responded to John the Baptist’s message of repentance. Tax collectors were hated in Jesus day. They were that greedy bunch who sold out to the Romans, and charged taxes in excess of the assessment, and then kept the difference for themselves. They came, they heard John the Baptist’s message and some of them responded. Some of them said to him, “What do we do? How do we repent? What does repent mean?” And John said, “Collect no more than what is due.” In other words, let go of the greed that causes you to collect more than is due. Let go of your greed. They were looking for stability. They were looking for a way to make a comfortable living. They weren't bad guys. But they were looking for security in greed. And they were told to let go of that greed, to give up that greed, to repent of greed.

What do you need to let go? What is blocking? The world as a whole needs to let go of violence, needs to let go of violence as a way of solving problems among nations. Our society needs to let go of systems which put children in the streets, to let go of systems which put children into circles of poverty from which there is no escape.

What do you need to let go? What's blocking God from moving in your life? What's hindering your relationships with one another? What's keeping glory out? What do you need to let go? Is it materialism? Are things or the accumulation of things too important to you? Is it  selfishness? Is “me, myself and I” too important in your life? Is pleasure? Do you think the world owes you a good time? Is your pleasure, your entertainment too important to you? What do you need to let go? What are you hanging on to for glory? What are you hanging on to keep your sanity? What are you hanging on to for security? Whatever it is, let go, and turn to Jesus Christ.

Glory this Christmas is found in Jesus. But Christ cannot take you by the hand if your hand is grasping something and won't let go. Let go. Let go and let Jesus take you. Let go and let Christ come into your life. Let Jesus be your Lord, the number one priority in your life. When making ethical decisions, when deciding what is right and what is wrong, ask yourself what would Jesus do? When making decisions about your life, about your vocation, about your career, ask “What is God's will for my life?” Proclaim Jesus as Lord, as number one and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. When you sin and fall short of the glory of God, let Christ save you and forgive you. When you fail and fall down flat on your face, let Christ pick you up, brush you off and set you on your way. When you weep, let Christ wipe away the tears. When you are ill, let Jesus heal you or comfort you and when you die, trust Christ to receive you in glory. Let go. Repent and let Jesus.

© 1988 Douglas I. Norris