The following is a reflection on Luke 1: 68-79 and Luke 3:1-6, the canticle and the Gospel lesson properly appointed for Advent 2C according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
Most people don’t ever want to talk about “sins.” At least not their own. (Other people’s sins are always fair game for in-depth discussion, but that’s another story entirely.)
The only things that might be able to drive the repulsion of “sin talk” even further out-of-bounds are probably…Christmas trees, mall Santas, and fields of ever-rolling poinsettias.
Congregations probably expect to hear about sin at some point in the year. In fact, many might get uneasy if they never heard the word. But in December? “Come on, Reverend, cool the jets a bit, and let’s sing some carols.”
But, John the Baptist, the voice crying out of the wilderness, forbids us from abandoning our handle on sin. He came to prepare the way for Jesus, and he came talking about sin and repentance.
In fact, he didn’t just talk about it, he:
went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
It’s so easy to forget among all the holly sprigs and gallons of eggnog, that the whole business of Jesus coming to earth is all about bringing us into right relationship with the God who loves us so much. It’s all about forgiveness.
And we’re not talking about forgiving bad gift choices. Or, wearing elf slippers to the Dunkin’ Donuts. (Not that I’ve ever done that…)
In Christ, we’re forgiven of our sins. The things we do which betray the holiness and the love of God. The things we do which hurt our neighbors – those we know, and the innocent bystanders. The ways we hurt ourselves over and over again.
From the Song of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist:
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
To give people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us.
That’s why the angels sang, and the shepherds left their flocks, and the wise men made their journey.
It’s why a man donned a camel hair robe, grabbed his lunch pail full of locusts, and headed off to Jordan’s river banks.
And, it’s why we dress our children up as donkeys and angels, sing “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and stand up straight with a tear in our eye for the Hallelujah Chorus.
Because in the birth of Jesus we are given the gift of forgiveness. Forgiveness for everything. Anything.
All of it.