“Let us examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord” (Lamentations 3:40).
This may not seem like a Christmas verse, but it is.
After Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, the Jews who survived realized that their national disobedience had caused the great catastrophe. The prophets had warned for years that judgment was coming if the people did not turn to the Lord. But they laughed it off because sin was more fun than obedience. They enjoyed the “fleeting pleasures of sin” (see Hebrews 11:25).
People sometimes ask, “Do you think God can speak to me today?” I tell them, “Don’t worry about it. God’s got your number on Speed Dial. He can ring your phone any time of the day or night. And when he calls, you won’t be able to put him on Call Waiting."
We must turn to the Lord. When I was a teenager, I went to a small Baptist church out in the country to hear a pastor preach in a revival meeting. I’ve never forgotten how he explained the doctrine of repentance. He went to one end of the platform and started walking. When he got to the other end, he turned around and started going in the other direction. He said, “That’s what repentance is. You were going one way in your life and now you are going in another.” That’s why the typical Old Testament word for repentance is “turn.” Turning is always involved in repentance. It’s a change of mind that leads to a change of direction.
We drift away from Christ because we don’t repent. It’s easier (so we think) to stay the way we are. But if we break up the hard soil of our hearts, God will plant within the seeds of joy and peace.
Our greatest need is for a holy dissatisfaction. I do not mean morbid introspection or a self-conscious recital of every sin we have committed. We need a holy hunger for God to reveal himself in a new way.
Most of us don’t associate repentance with Christmas because we think it’s too much of a downer. But we all need to turn to the Lord, and not just once but again and again. We need to turn away from our pride, our arrogance, and our self-reliance. When we do, we discover the joy of desperate dependence on Jesus.
He came to rescue us from the mess we made. Only sinners need a Savior. Repentance means we finally admit God was right all along.
That’s what Christmas is all about.
Father, free me from loving sin more than loving you. Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Amen
Musical bonus: In 1872 Christina Rossetti wrote a carol that is remembered today mostly for its closing lines. I found a lovely version of this hymn recorded by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir. Let’s listen to In the Bleak Midwinter.
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