Joyful expectation and sober repentance
As the days shorten in length and we become more aware of the darkness that fills the hours, the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of the Lord, the Son of Righteousness and the Light of the world, into time and history. We celebrate not only his coming as the Babe in Bethlehem’s manger but also his coming as Judge at the Last Day.
In the early Church the season of Advent had this two-fold emphasis: joyful expectation and sober repentance. Both emphases generate a spirit of preparation – preparation for the holy celebration of the incarnation and preparation for the final revelation.
Many in the early Church considered Advent to be a period of joyful preparation for the birth of the King of kings. Since the feast of the nativity had replaced an older pagan feast, the feast of the Unconquered Sun, the early Church sought to make its feast glow with the power of the Son of God. It is natural that this preparatory period would be understood as a time of anticipation and joy.
For us today Advent is a time of expectancy and joy, tempered with a hearty sense of repentance. It is a time that is understood by many to be a miniature Lent. Our celebrations are to be tempered with the kind of expectancy that greets the birth of a child. A place must be prepared, expenditures pared, self-examinations made, and fears disclosed and allayed.
All this is done, however, in a spirit of joy, a confident belief that we are soon to pass out of the night of uncertainty into the day of new life and hope. Advent is a time in which we “cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” so that we may greet the coming kingdom of God with our hearts purged of all darkness and our faces turned toward God’s unconquered Son.
“Advent is both a beginning and an end, an alpha and an omega of the church’s year of grace. Too often considered merely a season of preparation for the annual commemoration of Christ’s birth, this rich and many-layered season is actually designed to prepare the Christian for the glorious possibilities of the parousia. It is a season of longing expectation “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20). William G. Storey, “Days of the Lord”
I thank Sharon Pearson and her dedication to the website– Building Faith. If you have a chance, spend some time there. The resources are wonderful and she always offers something to feed the soul.