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Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. In the Gospel (Matthew 3:1-12) we listen to a most unpleasant prophet, John the Baptist. John the Baptist is not a popular figure to say the least.

You won’t find him at any manger scenes or on a Hallmark card, not even Advent cards. He wears a dusty camel’s hair coat, lives on locust and honey and smells of poverty. If he showed up today, we would call the police, lock our doors and hide the children.

We have never received a Christmas card depicting John the Baptist: “Greetings from our house to your house, you brood of vipers. Every tree that does not bear fruit will be thrown into the fire….Merry Christmas!” We prefer the round, jolly fellow in the red, velour suit with a bag full of gifts for those who have too much already.

But for 2,000 years the Church has been telling us that if you want to get to the joy of Christmas, you have to go through the Jordan River where John the Baptist is baptizing. If you want to see the Christ child in the manger, you must first confront this crazy prophet. No Jesus without John!

Why? Because John’s message boils down to one word – one word that hits us between the eyes and explodes in our ears – REPENT!! Everything else is window-dressing. John is telling us: 1. You don’t just repent because you got caught. 2. You don’t say, “I’m sorry” because it’s politically correct or it’s forced on you. 3. Repent is not just saying, “Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, Lord, have mercy.”

REPENT! Means to turn your life around and to head in a whole new direction.

I was talking with a couple who loved to play cards on Tuesdays with a group of friends. One Tuesday I asked why they were not they were not playing cards with their friends. “Oh, we finally had it with that ‘gossip group’, they were better at converting us than we were at converting them. So we said good-bye.” A God Notice

REPENT! Means to turn your life around and to head in a whole new direction.

There was once a man who wanted to repent, but he had a most difficult time doing it. He would go into church by himself and pray: “O, dear Lord please take the cobwebs out of my life!” One day a priest overheard him praying and whispered to him: “A better prayer might be, ‘Lord, please kill the spider!’”

What new direction in your life do you now need to take this Advent?

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