I wonder if we sometimes lose the main thread of Advent in our zeal to differentiate our season of quiet preparation from the secular celebration of the “holidays.” It feels like we’ve overcorrected and inadvertently send a message that God’s advent into our lives needs to be anticipated with dread rather than joy. I know that’s not what we intend in our Advent traditions, but given that Advent carries a penitential cast for some, it is how our actions are received.
So this week, when we hear of John preaching a baptism of repentance, I fear we miss the reason for his baptism – which is the forgiveness of our sins. It’s a cosmic reset of our relationship with God. We are not getting what we deserve; we are getting what God longs for, a healed and restored relationship.
When I look at the lights in the darkness and the decorations hung up well in advance of Christmas, I see a message of restoration and hope. Many may have forgotten the more profound truth of the solemn joy of Advent, but I hope those of us who remember the whole story, can by our quiet preparation, recall them to the hope that is breaking has been breaking into the world since Jesus’ birth.