The Calls of Advent

By Pastor Wayne Bernau, Immanuel Lutheran

            The word advent means “coming.”  The four Sundays before Christmas are observed as a time of anticipation, expectation, and preparation for our Lord’s comings.       

I say comings, because we prepare in Advent to celebrate our Lord’s first coming as a lowly baby born to the Virgin Mary in the little town of Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.   But we also look forward to and prepare to joyfully receive our Lord at His second coming, when He comes in glory with His holy angels to judge the living and the dead.  No one knows just when this will occur.

The Advent call is a cry for repentance, for faith, for waking up, for filling our lives with good things, and for rejoicing.

  John the Baptist was the forerunner of our Lord.  He was sent to prepare the way for the Lord and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. 

Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:3 are a prophecy of the work of John the Baptist.  Isaiah wrote, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'”

When John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, he cried out, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  (Matthew 3:1)

So the Advent call is first a call to repentance.  What sins have burdened and blackened your life that you need to repent of and be rid of?  How about apathy, bitterness, complaining, envy, falsehood, gossip, hate, lust, neglect, pornography, rebellion, and vanity, for a few starters?

“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.  Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today,” as a familiar hymn puts it.  Or, as another says, “Then cleansed be every life from sin; make straight the way for God within.  And let us all our hearts prepare, for Christ to come and enter there.”

The Advent call is also a call to believe.  Believe that Jesus Christ is the God-man who came to save you.  Believe that He loves you with an everlasting love.  Believe that God forgives you all your sins, for Jesus’ sake.  Believe that God has a great purpose for your life.  Believe that He is with you always, as He promises.  Believe that He has a place for you in His heaven.

Advent is also time to wake up and get with it, spiritually speaking.  We read these solemn words in Romans 13.  “And do this, understanding the present time.  The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

Furthermore, Advent is a call to fill our hearts and lives with praiseworthy things.  Receive Christ Himself and His Holy Spirit into your heart and life.  Then let Him also fill your life with the qualities of hope and peace and joy and love, as reflected in many Advent wreaths.

Do you know this hymn verse?  “Fling wide the portals of your heart; make it a temple set apart from earthly use for heaven’s employ, adorned with prayer and love and joy.”

Finally, the Advent call is also a call to rejoice.  Rejoice, as Zechariah did, that God had come to redeem His people.  Rejoice, as did Mary when she praised God for the honor He had bestowed on her to be the virgin mother of the Messiah.  Rejoice, as did the angels over Bethlehem who announced the birth of the precious Christ child to lowly shepherds.  Rejoice, with the song, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!”  Or, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!”

If you heed these calls of Advent, you will be prepared for and blessed by the comings of the Christ.