Sunday, November 29, marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the Church’s year when Christians are encouraged to reflect on their need for a savior. We sing songs and read Bible passages, some of which recall how the ancient Israelites longed for the coming of the Messiah (in Greek, “Christ”), God’s champion who would rescue them from physical captivity and spiritual darkness. We can share that longing even though we know that the Christ has come. At Christmas, we celebrate Jesus’ birth. But we know the world still contains sin, evil, and death, and we look forward to Jesus’ second coming, when all things will be made new and, as one theologian has put it, “all ambiguities will be resolved.”
Do we need a savior, a Christ, a Messiah? What for? Aren’t we doing well enough? Let’s look at the Confession in the ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019. It begins:
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, maker and judge of us all; we acknowledge and lament our many sins and offenses, which we have committed by thought, word, and deed against your divine majesty, provoking most justly your righteous anger against us. We are deeply sorry for these our transgressions; the burden of them is more than we can bear.
Our maker and judge is the holy God, who is totally good and without any shadow of sin. God’s standard is perfection. Clearly, none of us meets that standard. Faced with this fact, some rebel: “I’m imperfect and I don’t care, I reject God and his standard!” The rebel might as well reject the law of gravity, attempting to deny reality will get you nowhere. Beyond this though, consider where the standard of “I’m imperfect and that’s OK” has gotten us: indifference to the poor, envy, hatred, crime and war. We see these things around us every day in thought, word, and deed and we realize that, given the opportunity, we participate too. There is something broken deep within us. The burden of our brokenness is more than we can fix on our own. That’s what the Confession means when it says our sins are more than we can bear. If there is no savior, then the rebel’s response is one of despair.
Now hear the second part of the Confession:
Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us most merciful Father; for your Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may evermore serve and please you in newness of life, to the honor and glory of your Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer instructs us to pray for things that we are confident God can grant. Jesus spoke of God’s mercy and forgiveness. God wants to forgive us all that is past (think about that: all that is past) so that we can live with him forever in newness of life. Only God can grant this and the way he has chosen to grant it is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We have an opportunity to accept that gift.
We have two choices: rebel and live in despair, or accept God’s offer of forgiveness and a new life. This is a weighty choice that we can ponder during Advent. You are welcome to join us.
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