Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Psalms 51:9-12
Today, what with the flyers from the local retailers, your newspaper probably looks like it's on steroids.
That's just one indication that Christmas is coming. Of course, there are other barometers that help remind us about December 25th. Your car radio is jingling you to death with songs about the products you simply have to buy. The TV infomercials are gradually grinding you down with their mind-numbing, tedious, tiresome offerings for things unnecessary and unneeded. Every mall and shopping center has put on their tapes of non-religious Christmas music, and the constant repetition of Burl Ives singing, "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" has given you a migraine.
Our young ones have not escaped the advertising blitz as Saturday morning cartoons are doing their best to transform our kids and grandkids into mindless zombies who have an over-powering hunger for things that simply must be theirs, if they are to feel loved. They have been told that to not have all these things, it will be impossible for them to grow into normal, well-adjusted consumers.
In contrast to the multitude of earthly advertisers who promise to give you what you need, the Advent season brings us a single man, whose powerful voice calls this sinful world to repentance.
His parents had called him "John," but the world has always known him as "The Baptizer," the forerunner of the promised Savior Jesus. In that position John never offered people what they wanted to hear; no, he told them what they most needed to hear: they must repent of their sins. By the Holy Spirit's power, they needed to be contrite over all they had done wrong, be turned away from those evils, and be brought to their Savior, who would give His life for their salvation.
Years ago, when our children were young, one of the girls had done something wrong and was sent to her room. There she was to languish until, with a repentant heart, she would say, "I'm sorry." As I walked past her room, I heard her brother offer this advice: "All you have to do is say you're sorry. You don't have to mean it."
That is not the kind of pretend repentance John called for or God wants.
Nor does the Lord want a half-hearted repentance. Since I've embarrassed one daughter, I might as well do the same with the other. Different daughter, similar situation. This daughter had also misbehaved and been sent to her room. She, too, had been told she could come out and join the rest of us when she repented and said she was sorry.
Five minutes went by, 10 minutes; 15 minutes. This was almost an all-time record. Finally, we heard the door to her room creak open, and a head poked out into the hallway. "Well, young lady," I said in my stern, fatherly voice, "are you sorry enough to come out of your room?" And, can you believe it, she said, absolutely straight and incredibly sweet, "No, daddy, but I'm sorry enough to leave the door open."
Half-hearted repentance is not what the Lord wants. He wants us to ask for forgiveness and then rejoice that His Son provides what we really need at Christmastime -- what we really need every day and moment of our lives -- a Savior who takes away our sin.
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, I give thanks You are merciful to sinners. May others see in me the joy that comes from having faith in the Savior who has forgiven my sins. This I ask in Jesus' Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries