The Paradox of Advent
Having been married to my wife, Jennifer, for over thirty-three years, I feel I can rightfully say I have a great marriage. In many ways, however, Jennifer and I are total opposites. Several of our interests are completely different, our personalities and temperaments are not very similar and, when it comes to looks, she’s certainly a lot prettier than I am. In a nutshell, we are our own persons but it works for us. Our differences provide a good balance which has gotten us through all these years, with all their ups and downs. The saying, “opposites attract” certainly holds true in many aspects of our relationship. One could say it’s kind of a paradox. That’s how the season of Advent affects me.
Let me explain what I mean by asking a question: “Is this a season of celebration or a season of repentance?” I see Advent as a season of both celebration and repentance. These seem like totally different responses, but they work well together: that’s the paradox. Kind of like my marriage to Jennifer. It is a season of celebration because we begin to celebrate the first coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The very thought of that causes us to rejoice! So, we respond by decorating, buying gifts to bring a smile to someone’s face, sending out Christmas cards, and attending parties. One can’t help but rejoice at the very thought that soon we will celebrate the birth of Christ.
However, Advent also reminds us that this same Christ who was born in Bethlehem will return again and, as the Creed reminds us, “he will come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead.” It is this aspect of Advent which compels us to examine ourselves to see where we have fallen short. It causes us to take special consideration of the words in the Prayer of Confession: “We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine majesty, provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us.” So, Advent is also a reminder that Christ is coming again as King and Judge and we want him to be pleased with us when he does.
Let me conclude by giving another illustration from my marriage to Jennifer: Both of us love having company and hosting parties, but our actions leading up to such parties is totally the opposite from one another. Jennifer becomes very conscious of the condition of the house. If company is coming over, everything must be clean, polished, arranged and in order. For her, pre-party time is a time of making sure her house is in order. For me, I just want to make sure we have plenty to eat and drink and that some good music will be playing. For me, pre-party time is a time of …. well, pre-partying. However when we put these two attitudes together, the party usually turns out very well.
That’s the paradox of Advent: a time of preparation and that preparation includes both celebration and repentance. Take time in the midst of all the glitter, presents, parties, and so forth, to make sure your house is in order. Yes, the King has come, and yes, he is coming again.
Blessings in Christ,