Isaiah 11:1-10 Matthew 3:1-12
“Repentance (Greek: metanoia) is much more comprehensive. Noia is the mind, and it’s a complete change of mind and heart. It’s not just ‘repent of the bad things you are doing and don’t sin.’ That’s just part of it. It’s, ‘Have a conversion. Become a different person.’” – Father James Martin
I’ve never met anyone who truly loves to drive at night. At best, most people are indifferent to the added challenge of dodging deer and squinting through the high beams of discourteous oncoming drivers. Darkness doesn’t inspire confidence in our driving or navigation abilities, which makes it all the more anxiety-inducing when our GPS signal fails us on unknown roads in the dead of night. Between the unreliability of discount mobile carriers and my poor sense of direction, I’ve found myself in this situation more times than I’d like to admit: driving through the dark while praying that my cellular signal returns before I run out of gas. The word “recalculating” has never sounded as beautiful as it has coming from Siri’s voice on such nights.
It’s from this same place that I hear the words of John the Baptist in Matthew 3: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” For so many years, I misunderstood the idea of repentance as a call to feel bad about moral failure. Because of my broken understanding of repentance, I also misunderstood John’s mission and saw him as an angry preacher pronouncing judgment on those within earshot. Yet, that isn’t what we actually see in Scripture. We see instead a prophet inviting people to respond to new information. We hear the voice of one saying, “We have a signal! Recalculate! The Kingdom of Heaven is this way; come and see!” John’s invitation isn’t simply about moral rehabilitation. It’s about soul reorientation. Those who seek the Kingdom of God should rejoice! We’re no longer driving in the dark and doing our best, for the light of the world has come to show us the way.
In this season of Advent, may we remember that repentance isn’t just about lamenting when we’ve gone in the wrong direction; it’s an invitation to respond to a renewed sense of where God is calling us through the Christ who comes to us. May we have the humility to change our course when the presence of Christ calls to us anew in these days. May we who seek the Kingdom of God find our bearing in the person of Christ today, for it is Christ who orients us and calls us forward. Amen.