Happy New Year! This is the first Sunday in Advent, which is regarded by Western Christianity as the beginning of the liturgical year. Sometimes Christians mistakenly think of Advent as being synonymous with the birth of Christ or with Christmas. But it really isn’t. In fact, Advent’s primary focus is on what we usually call the second coming of Christ. It’s for this reason that you will find the lectionary readings of the church focusing on this topic, this year.
I like what Laurence Stookey says about this, “What may seem to be an anomaly is a very important theological point: The beginning of the liturgical year takes our thinking to the very end of things.” (Christ’s Time for the Church, 121)
This is important because beginning at the end equips us to make sense of the rest of Jesus’ life and ministry. Stookey again,
Only this focus on the central purpose of God in history can keep the story of Jesus from falling into superstitious or almost magical understandings that often afflict the Christian community, on the one hand, or into trivialization and irrelevance that characterize secular interpretations, on the other hand. (p. 122)
Because Advent focuses on the end and because it focuses on God setting all things right, Advent is a time for repentance and preparation. A friend of mine is the pastor of an Orthodox Presbyterian congregation. In his church, Advent is the time they kneel during the prayer of confession as a sign of contrition, humility, and repentance. They stand for Christmas as a sign of celebration. I like that.
Advent is a time for a new beginning, a time to be turned from spiritual indifference and lethargy; and a time to do business with God, as they say. It’s a time to join the church in praying,
Merciful God, who sent your messengers, the prophets, to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
So, Happy New Year!
Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:11-13)