John the Baptist was a prophet like the prophets of the Old Testament. He preached in the desert and he didn’t pull his punches. But John’s message was good news. He told the people: ‘Repent!’ Repentance means a complete change of heart and mind. It means turning back towards God. John promised the people that repentance would bring God’s forgiveness for their sins. He baptised them in the river Jordan as a symbol of repentance, washing themselves clean and leaving their sins behind. They were preparing themselves for the kingdom of heaven.
The ordinary people flocked to John. The religious leaders – Pharisees and Sadducees – weren’t so sure. John warned those important people that, whatever their high position, they needed to repent too. God’s chosen one was coming; he had power to judge everyone, and he would judge them by their fruits – by actions and not words.
The season of Advent is a time to repent – to look seriously at our lives, and to ask ourselves what may prevent us from welcoming the Lord when he comes. It may be difficult to find time and space for reflection, as we hurtle towards Christmas, but it will be time well spent. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of peace, justice and mercy. The coming of the kingdom is good news – if we’re ready.