Jesus loves you. And he wants you to triumph; he won’t let you fail. He gives you all the tools you need to be with him for eternity in paradise.
We are halfway through the Advent season, the preparation for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. But in no way is this preparation passive or short term. It is not something where we should be satisfied by purely waiting.
Advent is active. We are called every moment of our lives to persevere and overcome tests and struggles; we are called to triumph and make ourselves ready for him. Advent is ever-present and always, in the sense that it points to Christ’s second coming.
We are called to prepare ... always. We are called to repent ... always. We are called to proclaim ... always. We are called to triumph.
This is alluded to in Hebrews 12:26-27: Christ “has promised, ‘I will once more shake not only earth but heaven.’ That phrase ‘once more,’ points to the removal of shaken, created things, so that what is unshaken may remain.”
This testing and these struggles, which we endure every day, attack us and test us because there are the parts of us that are weak and flawed and need to be cast aside for us to be ready ... always.
The verses from Hebrews talk about getting rid of that part of us that is the weakest or the sickest. The stuff we don’t need, as Scripture tells us, the part that can be shaken.
And Jesus will show us the way. He will be with us as we do this, because, in these struggles, we will stumble, we will sin and it will hurt. But remember that Christ is the form God’s love takes in the presence of sin. Jesus is the Father’s response to sin. He wants us to triumph; he will not let us fail. He loves us.
The fruit of our Advent preparation is a relationship with God, and repentance repairs any damage that we may have caused through sin. Repentance means staying in relationship.
The only reason we are ever sorry for anything is that we realize it hurt our relationship with God or neighbor or ourselves, and it crushes us. But Jesus is drawn to our wounds, and he loves us.
Advent is our time to draw ourselves closer to him. We can do this directly through prayer, through minimizing distractions in our heart and through service to the church.
We can also do this indirectly through recognizing Jesus in those around us, through desiring only positive things for ourselves and others, through upholding the human dignity of the person standing before us. All of these things only serve to better our relationship with him.
A wise deacon once said to me, think of the last sin you committed. At that moment, you either thought you were everything or you thought you were nothing. Everything, in the sense that — I’m amazing. I don’t have to follow God’s will. Nothing, in the sense that — I’m worthless. I’ll never be able to follow his will, so why bother?
Both stem from being isolated, both stem from losing sight of our relationship with Jesus, both stem from not understanding repentance. Hold on to your relationship with Jesus Christ. It is all that matters. It is all that will ever matter.
It is my prayer that in these anticipatory weeks of Advent, leading up to the celebration of the birth of Our Lord, we may embrace our spiritual struggles as the gift that they are. May we let these struggles cast aside those things that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken remain.
When Mary Jane Sullivan began the process of assembling her Advent wreath Nov. 29, she went step by step, showing what she was doing to the roughly 80 families that were following along.
As we approach the halfway point of Advent, we are likely busy with our preparations for a Christmas that will look different this year.
How many of you, when asked, “How are you doing?”, have replied, “I’m just waiting for this year to end”?