Two senior citizens living at Miller’s Merry Manor were engaged in a controversy over a political issue. However, it appeared that one of them was doing all the talking, while the second man waited patiently for an opening to present his side of the argument. When it appeared that the first man had run out of steam and the second man was about to have his say, the one who had been doing all the talking quickly turned off his hearing-aid.
At this point I feel like the second man in that story. This is because I am about to define the cost of God’s gift of New Life with a word that may prompt most of you to turn off your hearing-aids, so to speak. The word causes such negative vibrations to so many of us that I hesitate to use it. The word is “repentance.” It implies that there is something wrong with us, and none of us likes to admit that.
Repentance means a turning or a changing. Something in our life has to change. We have to turn our life around. In the New Testament, one of the words for repentance appears more than fifty times. It means, literally, to change your mind. A second word for repentance is used more than twenty times. It means literally, to turn around. Both of these words are trying to tell us that there is a turning involved -- away from rebelliousness, estrangement, self-centeredness, lovelessness, and toward a union with God.
Repentance involves more than mere sorrow and regret. It is not just a matter of admitting the wrongs in our life and loading ourselves up with guilt. It is a matter of turning and changing in the hope that there is mercy and forgiveness.
As we move deeper into the Season of preparation for Christmas, hopefully we become more and more aware of the need to put the Christmas Spirit into our life experience. Mere words about it will never live up to the experience of it.
A young mother encountered her son on the street when he should have been in school. When the boy finished explaining why he was not where he was supposed to be, the mother replied, “I’m not accusing you of telling a lie. I’m just saying that I have never before heard of a school that gives time off for good behavior.”
The fruit of genuine repentance is much sweeter even than getting time off for good behavior. When God’s merciful forgiveness is accepted and union with Him is restored, it is as though the old sins had never been committed. God’s forgiveness is that real. God forgives and forgets in this sense, and the healing, the restoration, the new beginning, the new life — all of these are real and they can be yours this Christmas and all the years to come.