Advent is a season of waiting. For the first two weeks, the focus is on waiting for Christ to be born. The last two Sundays in Advent focus on the whole world, including creation, waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ when everything will be made right ( Romans 8: 18-22). Advent is the beginning of the church calendar, so it launches a new year.
What is the best way to begin a new year? What about taking inventory of your soul? The color of advent is purple signifying penitence and fasting. The celebration of Christ’s birth is made more joyful with a clean heart.
It’s hard to take a good, long look in the mirror. No one wants to do that. Perhaps that is one reason the Christmas season has drifted so far from a focus on waiting, anticipation, and penitence and certainly not fasting. Rather the first glimpses of Christmas appear just after Halloween; commercials broadcast great ideas for gifts and engage in rationale about why you deserve to indulge in your pleasures. Rather than fasting, the season is known for decadent eating.
Advent brings us back to the reason for Christmas. The season of Advent begins with Hope. While hope alone does not replace the greedy, over-indulgent, materialistic season that we have made into Christmas, it does bring soul-refreshing focus to the spiritual preparation of Christmas.
Christmas is, after all, about hope. The hope that anchored a nation is the same hope of Christmas. The hope that keeps creation groaning for things to be made right was birthed at Christmas. Hope is connecting the heart’s longings past the harsh realities to the promises of greater glory. Waiting in hope is what the life of a prophet was all about. That is why the first candle of advent is called the Prophet’s candle and why it burns with the light of hope.
Tennyson said: Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering it will be happier... As a new calendar brings hope about the unwritten, unlived days ahead, so the season of Advent brings hope. Because the first coming of Christ was fulfilled; we can be certain His second coming will happen when the time is just right.
In the meantime, we are gifted with the season of Advent to focus our heart, mind and spirit on the work of God through Christ. Eager to wait through each Sunday before Christmas, we have much to fill the time. We have a lot going on in our souls that needs to be examined and considered. In contrast to the joy of the birth of Christ is the reality of our sin that provoked Him to leave heaven and take on the form of a newborn baby claiming the boundaries of human flesh. Our sin is the reason He chose to stoop so low to become one of us and even showed more humility and determination to save us by drying on a shameful cross. It’s not enough to celebrate the joy of Christmas without considering the reason for Christmas.
The hope of God for each sinner to come to faith in Jesus Christ becomes our hope. As God waits for all souls to put their faith and trust in Him, we wait with hope on God to make everything right through Jesus Christ. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance 2 Peter 3:9. May this season fill you with hope as you wait on the promises yet to be fulfilled.
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