To celebrate Advent is to participate in an act of confession. By “confession” I do not only mean an act of penitence, though Advent certainly is a time for that as well. But the confession of Advent is a proclamation of something different than what we learn from the world.
Today’s Old Testament passage chronicles the threat of foreign invasion against the city of Jerusalem. Today’s New Testament passage heralds the coming of the one who is lawless, a being of chaos. And over both of these readings we hear the promise of the Psalmist against the wicked: “They shall soon wither like the grass.” The Word of God commands its hearers to have faith precisely in the moment of overwhelming fear and the threat of ruin. But what does faith look like in moments like these? For the Church, it is her confession.
Our confession is an act of faith, and faith is not simply the affirmation of objective tenets. The content of faith may be the creeds, but the practice of faith consists of stepping out into a world that knows so much darkness and proclaiming light. The action of the Church is her faith, her theology. Here at All Saints, we know that how we live proclaims what we believe. How we give, how we show kindness, how we forgive, and how we love is our confession.
This is the simplest yet most difficult part of the Christian faith, and indeed of all faith. It is the movement from what we say towards what we do. And this intimidates us because if we’re honest, we all look at our actions and can only say, “I do not believe what I say I believe. I do not practice what I preach,” as the saying goes.
But we all need to come to this place in Advent. We must own our inadequacies and turn in expectation to the One who is drawing near. No matter what we’re currently experiencing or enjoying or suffering, our lives have to be re-formed in light of Jesus of Nazareth. And we do not do this in what we simply think or feel or reflect upon during Advent. We do this in how we forgive our spouses, serve our co-workers, love our children, give generously, and anything else that allows us, for at least one more moment, to “take delight in the Lord.” And the life and beauty and thankfulness that comes out of those moments will become the “desires of our hearts.”
So today, Church, is your day to confess. Show the world that eternal life can be had, and the sign of this life is the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Give life to others, especially to your enemies, and be the body of Christ working for the redemption of His Creation.
May God’s blessing be upon you and your households and your children, now and forever. Amen.