My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
The colors of Christmas. We finish with them tonight because next week is Christmas, and we must be ready. The color red focused on the anger of God over sin and the blood of Jesus Christ which takes away our guilt and sin. Last week the color was green, and we considered the life He gave and the life which He gives to us through faith. The color of Christmas we look at this week is the color of Royalty and the color of repentance, the color Purple. It is the color we see also in Lent, draped around the shoulders of our Lord as He is led to the cross to die. He wore it then as a Roman mocking of His title "King of the Jews." The color of kings draped on the shoulders of one sentenced to die by the cowardice of Pilate and the envy of the Jews. Let us look at this final color, the color of repentance.
Repentance is an appropriate topic for Advent. Advent is a penitential season. It is a season of preparation for facing God in the final advent on the last day; and what could be more appropriate for that preparation than repentance?
But repentance is not a hot topic in today's world. I doubt that it ever was, especially as I read the Old Testament Prophets. Their call was always to repent - and it appears it went generally unheard and unheeded. When they did hear it, they persecuted and even killed the prophets for proclaiming it! It always sounded so ugly, and nobody wanted to hear it.
God often called His people a harlot - comparing them to a wife who had begun to sell herself to anyone and everyone. Listen to these passages from Jeremiah chapter 2: "Long ago I broke your yoke And tore off your bonds; But you said, 'I will not serve.' . . . On every high hill And under every green tree You have lain down as a harlot. . . . How can you say, 'I am not defiled, I have not gone after the Baals'? Look at your way in the valley! Know what you have done! You are a swift young camel entangling her ways, A wild donkey accustomed to the wilderness, That sniffs the wind in her passion. In the time of her heat who can turn her away? . . . As the thief is shamed when he is discovered, So the house of Israel is shamed; They, their kings, their princes, And their priests, and their prophets, Who say to a tree, 'You are my father,' And to a stone, 'You gave me birth' . . . "Can a virgin forget her ornaments, Or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me Days without number." . . . "Also on your skirts is found The lifeblood of the innocent poor; You did not find them breaking in. . . . But you are a harlot with many lovers; Yet you turn to Me," declares the Lord. "Lift up your eyes to the bare heights and see; Where have you not been violated? By the roads you have sat for them Like an Arab in the desert, And you have polluted a land With your harlotry and with your wickedness."
And what was the sin of the nation Israel? They had forgotten God and turned to other things which seemed more pleasant or more profitable. Then when God called them to repent, He did not sugar-coat His message, but called them prostitutes and accused them of murder and deceit. It is no wonder that they found the call to repentance hard to hear.
But the hardest part was that the call to them, and to us, is not a call to say "I'm sorry," or to feel badly about what they had done - it was a call to change. It was a call to the total re-orientation of their lives and their personalities. It was a change which would effect their sense of right and wrong, their attitudes and decisions, their words and their behavior. It meant to turn away from sin deliberately and to pursue righteousness.
Psalm 51:17 still applies, just as it did then: The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, Thou wilt not despise.
Worse yet, repentance is a change which only God can accomplish. It is not something that a human works up in themselves by simply knowing that they are wrong. That's why Psalm 51 also says in verse 10: Create in me a clean heart, 0 God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. And God answers the prayer of the Psalmist in Ezekiel 36:26: "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And again, in Jeremiah 31:33: "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them:, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
As I said before, repentance is still not a hot topic. Still today, no one likes to hear that they are sinful. But they are - we are. We may not build shrines to foreign deities and indulge in ritual prostitution under their cover, but we often have sold ourselves to sin also. What else is it but sin when we cannot take time for daily devotions and prayer? What else is it but sin when we cannot find time outside of that hour on Sunday to serve our congregation? What else is it but sin when we find a Sunday service too long if it is simply more than that sacred sixty minutes? We have other things to do. We have more important things in our lives, or so we seem to be saying. We expect God will always be there, stuck in that comfortable corner we have built for Him. We may not feel that we need to offer Him any extra time or attention.
What else is it but sin when we can watch others walk the road to hell and not speak a word to rescue them, friends, neighbors, family? What else can it be that allows us to accumulate treasures for ourselves, blessings from God, and then makes us so stingy with our Lord - so stingy that we cannot send money to missions in proportion to the money we spend on ourselves? We have a wonderful church facility, but that is for us - what about those who have not yet heard? Do we really think that God has given us our wealth so that we can pamper and pleasure ourselves while people die without knowing the Gospel and without even having heard of the love of Jesus? What else can it be but sin?
Sure, we don't go playing the harlot after idols, we do it after vacations, or sports. We worship the good life, the boat, the car, the lake home. We say that we must make sure we have enough and more for the future, as though there is no God in heaven to bless us and care for us - or who can take it all away so quickly. We act as if we do not know, or at least do not really trust, the will of God toward us. And what is the will of God for us?
What else is it but sin when we refuse to bow to the Word of God? We set ourselves up as the experts - "I may not know much about religion, but I know what I believe!" Some of us steadfastly refuse to study His Word. Bible study? No way! I've got to go to breakfast! I've got company! I don't like to drive at night! I've got too much to do!
Well, I've got news for you. None of those other things is going to get you into heaven. Only Scriptures has the power to give you the wisdom that leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. And what else is it but naked idolatry when we will place anything and everything in our lives before we will take the time to study God's Word? Why study? Psalm 19:7 says The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Purple is the color that cries out to us to remember the price paid for our sins - the mocking and the crucifixion of our Lord - and to repent. But it doesn't ask us to simply acknowledge that we ought to have done it differently or better. It is a cry to change! Change how you think. Change how you act. Change how you speak. Change how you value things.
Place God first. Measure His grace against your sin and give thanks. Hear the word and invitation of God: Romans 2:4: Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
Repent. That is the simple cry of the purple of advent - once the color used on the altar in this season - REPENT. Re-orient yourself toward God. Count the things which will always matter as more important than those things which are perishing. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Turn from your sin.
- Do you steal?
- Stop. Give back what you can. Seek forgiveness.
- Are you committing adultery? Stop. Ask God for forgiveness. Where possible, put things right.
- Learn to give thanks for what you have instead of cursing about whatever you may think you lack.
And learn to call on God for every good thing and every blessing first. Do not make prayer a desperation thing, or only at meal times and as you drift off to sleep. Pray always. Give thanks. Count on God and count Him as always your Friend, your Lord, and your Benefactor. Pray and give thanks - and repent. Give up the chase of the good life and learn that it is in Him. Stop caring for yourself as though there were no God to love you and bless you, and start to care about Him and caring for others. Repent and begin to live as though the things you confess in church were really true, and you really believed them.
That's what the purple says - REPENT. Remember the Word of God which says: If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
The colors of Christmas: Red, and Green, and Purple. One reminds of our sins and our salvation, another reminds us of life as His gift, the third calls on us to repent - to turn away from our sins and turn toward our God and find mercy and forgiveness, life and salvation. If we can see these, and not just the "ho-ho-ho" in Christmas, then we shall be prepared for the real coming of our King, and that is what advent is about. And the extra blessing is that we shall also be prepared to have a genuinely Merry Christmas.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due.
Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.
Send Pastor Robin Fish an email.