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Advent looks to the coming of Christ
by BY REV. KURT HERING REV. JASON KRAUSE
Dec 13, 2012 | 494 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
AN ADVENT WREATH marks the passing of the Advent season with one candle lit on each of the four Sundays of Advent, with the center candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Photo by Melinda Williams | Davis Clipper
AN ADVENT WREATH marks the passing of the Advent season with one candle lit on each of the four Sundays of Advent, with the center candle lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Photo by Melinda Williams | Davis Clipper
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The season of Advent for Christians is characterized by waiting in anticipation and in repentance. While most people understand the waiting for Christmas to begin, few understand it the way the church has understood it. For most people, Christmas begins after Thanksgiving (for some it begins even before that day!) with Christmas songs and carols being sung on the radio and in malls. But in congregations that observe Advent, Christmas hymns are historically not sung until Christmas. Instead, for four Sundays until Dec. 24, Advent hymns are sung. These hymns look forward to Christ's comings. While many people see this time as only an anticipation of Jesus' birth, Christians have historically seen Advent as anticipating the two-fold coming of Christ. First, we look forward to Jesus’ birth and remembering it. Second, we look forward to his coming on the last day at the end of time. In both these comings, Jesus comes for his people to deliver them from bondage to sin, and to give them eternal life. In this first coming, he seeks to bring these about. In the second coming, he bestows the fullness of that gift on his people who do not yet “see” with their eyes the reality of what Christ already accomplished some 2,000 years ago. Thank God Jesus comes to his church today to prepare us for his coming at the end of time. So, with the saints of old, we wait for Christmas, and with the saints of all times, we wait for the last day—the end of the world as we have known it. For both of these, we wait with eager expectation, longing for both of these because both of these bring God’s peace to us. Yet, as we see why Christ had to come in the first place, reflect on his second coming and see all he brings on that day of justice and salvation, it reminds us of the need for repentance. Many people think repentance is about doing penance or that it is a process that requires one to permanently resolve never to repeat particular sins again, but in his 95 Thesis, Martin Luther underscored that “the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” He would later explain in his Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint John that, “We must constantly repent ...That is, we must continually mend our evil ways and be cleansed and at the same time always hope for that forgiveness of sin which we now have.” (Luther's Works, Vol. 22:180) The life of a Christian is lived in continually turning away from sin and in being made perfect by Jesus' death and resurrection. Thus, in Advent, we realize that Christ has come to turn us away from sin and to turn us to himself. Repentance in Advent is not about getting your life straightened out so that you are ready to meet the one holy God on Christmas or Judgment Day, it is about turning to Christ Jesus and letting him fully and freely take care of our sin problem. In this way during Advent, we reflect on the grace and mercy of Christ, who fully paid our debt leaving us nothing to pay back. Advent is truly a season of restrained joy as we reflect on our sins and need for a Savior and joyously anticipate that very Savior's coming. Rev. Hering is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton. Rev. Krause is pastor of Cross of Christ Lutheran Church in Bountiful.

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