Friday, December 6, 2013

A New Heart for Christmas

Reflections on the Readings
December 8, 2013 
Second Sunday of Advent - Year A

A New Heart for Christmas

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, when he said, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight."

To the east and southeast of Jerusalem, in the area of the Jordan Valley, a strange, yet compelling preacher drew great crowds. He dressed simply and ate sparsely; nothing about John the Baptist was meant to impress anyone nor did he crave attention or accolade. Burning within his heart was a word of hope and promise: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. God is coming near us! Repent and be ready to receive him!" 

Repent. We hear this word a lot. I heard it almost every service at the Pentecostal Church I grew up in. In that church revivals were mostly about preaching to save souls; to draw men and women, and boys and girls, to the knowledge that they should repent and receive their Savior, Jesus Christ. 

But what is repentance? What does it mean to repent? Why do we have times of penance in the the life of the Church? The Greek word for repent is metanoia. It means a change of mind, a change within our inner selves, as in conversion. Further, with that change comes a docile acceptance of the will of God. From time to time we need a little house cleaning; the room in our lives for God gets crowded with stuff and things and God has less space and time instead of all of our heart. 

Advent is a time of personal renewal and conversion of  heart and mind. And it has more to do with the presence of God in our lives than the presents we're buying to put under the tree. The commercialization of Christmas intrudes, if we let it, into this holy time of repentance. If we are to truly celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to prepare our hearts and make room in our selves for him for whom there was no room in the inn. 

Let's put something really special at the top of our Christmas wish list. Let's ask for a new heart filled with his grace and forgiveness so that in our heart and life there is always room for Jesus. Amen! 

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail Dennis at: or follow him on Twitter: @dshankins or visit him at:  



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