As we move into Advent, God calls his people to prepare. The four weeks of Advent - with hymns, carols and Advent wreaths - is a relatively recent practice. Traditionally, Advent was seven weeks long, and its purpose was penitential - which means looking at our lives, seeing where we fall short of God’s call to holiness of life, and then amending our ways. Advent also gave people time to meditate on the holy mystery of the Incarnation, when God become man.
What’s unique about the Christian Faith is not the Crucifixion, not even the Resurrection (there were Greek and Roman gods that died and rose) but the Incarnation - the belief that God, in all his splendor and majesty, became man in Jesus Christ; and not in a superficial sense - like Joseph donning his many colored dreamcoat - but in an all-the-way to the bones kind of way. Christians believe this so firmly, that in ancient Christian tradition, and still in the Catholic and Orthodox churches today, Mary is called the Mother of God, because she gave birth to Jesus who was truly God.
And yet, Advent is not a somber season. It’s a season of giving, sharing, and generosity. It’s not a season to focus on sins of commission - like breaking one of the Commandments - but rather sins of omission - when we fail to give to our less fortunate neighbors out of hardness of heart; when we fail to be generous out of fear we won’t have enough money; or when we fail to love our family and friends, because we are holding onto grudges that are within our power to release.
During this season of Advent, I challenge all of us to conform ourselves more closely to Jesus, who is the model of generosity. He was not afraid to humble himself, even to the point of death on a cross, so that we could receive the greatest gift of all - forgiveness and the chance to begin again with God and our neighbor.
Blessings on your Advent preparations, Pastor Eric