Morning Psalm 37:1-18; Evening Psalm 37:19-42
Isaiah 7:1-9; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; Luke 22:1-13
When I think of Christmas and Advent, purity and repentance aren’t the first things that come to mind. I would rather focus on the other aspects of Christmas and Advent: the joyful anticipation, the rejoicing, etc. But just as there is sorrow and pain before there is rejoicing at the birth of a child, so too our hearts need to be purified and repentant to meet the coming of the child King.
With the rush of the holiday season also comes many visits from family and friends. We scrub the bathrooms, clean the floors (a chore I do not like) and polish the silver–all in anticipation of their arrival. This kind of cleaning goes without saying, this is the South, hospitality is “done right” and we know how to make people feel comfortable and welcome. So if we are willing to take the time and effort to clean our houses for those we love, how much more willing should we be to do some “housecleaning” in our hearts in preparation to receive the greatest guest of all time: Christ Himself?
God has been in the process of purifying my heart in a deeper way this fall without my even asking. Through a hard and difficult situation, God showed me the state of my heart and how I had allowed something in my life to become an idol without my realizing it. I was trying to make an Isaac out of an Ishmael. You know when you try to force God’s hand to make something His will when it isn’t? So it was for me. It took my going through something painful and difficult for God to bring me to a place of realizing my own error. Yes, in some ways, I was the “victim,” if you will. But in God’s Sovereignty, He permitted this experience. My responsibility was to respond appropriately in faith. Only with God’s help have I been open to allowing Him to make me repentant and to purify me.
I was reminded of John the Baptist and his call to “Repent and prepare the way of the Lord.” (Matt. 3:1). Jesus wasn’t going to show up until John had fully accomplished what He was called to do. In the same way God doesn’t force Himself on us. He has given us the Holy Spirit to call us, again and again, back to the heart of God, back to a place of repentance. He will come when we are ready for Him, when we have prepared our hearts and can welcome Him (though sometimes it may be in tears).
This Advent, is there a place for purity, for repentance? Resoundingly yes. God has called me, He has called us into a love relationship with Him that should always be about “cleaning house,” for we are His temple and we should strive to keep it holy for Him. It is hard to sit in this place for long, it is uncomfortable and unpleasant but we know that after the pain comes the joy, after the discipline comes the hug! Hopefully my heart is more purified this year than last, with the goal that each year God is conforming me to the image of Christ. Purity and repentance are hard yet crucial themes at the core of what it means to prepare our hearts for Christ and celebrating His coming into this world.