By Brooke Holt
“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” The Collect, "Book of Common Prayer"
Happy New Year! For Christians, at least those of the liturgical persuasion, this Sunday is the first day of our new year. It marks the transition from what is known as the ordinary time (season after Pentecost) to the season of Advent. To continue to distinguish ourselves as Christians in the world but not of the world, this season is not about shopping for Christmas gifts and planning the Christmas dinner. Instead, it is a season of preparation – preparing our hearts, minds, and lives for the coming of Jesus Christ.
On Christmas day, we celebrate the birth of the Christ child fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies of God coming to dwell among his people. While the season of Advent does look back to that blessed day of Christ’s birth, it also looks ahead to the day when Jesus will come again. Unlike his first coming, the second coming of Jesus will be recognized by every person. Our Collect for today makes that point clear as it prays, “That in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead”. No one will miss Jesus when he comes again; however, his return will catch many people completely off guard.
The readings for this first week of Advent follow the prayer of the Collect teaching the disciples of Jesus Christ how to live with anticipation of this second coming. For those in Christ, it is not something to fear or dread but a day to look forward to – it is a day of hope as Jesus’ reign and kingdom will be fully established in the new heavens and the new earth.
As we wait, hope, and pray for that glorious day, we are to live as children of the light. That means we turn to Christ and follow him in this world while we also turn from the things of this world. We are to be lights shining in the darkness to reveal that there is something so much greater than money, fame, and earthly pleasures. There is a God who loves us infinitely, who made us to dwell in him and with him, who has a plan to redeem his people and his creation, and who promises those who look to Him a glorious eternity with him.
Throughout the season of Advent, there is the divine invitation for you to look away from this world to see Jesus Christ while anticipating eternal life with him. That holy anticipation is to lead you to repentance and preparation for eternity. Will you join in the prayer for today, “Almighty God, give me grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light”?
Do you see Advent as a season of holy preparation instead of earthly preparation? How can you use these next four weeks to put on the armor of light? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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