“What John the Baptist did for Israel. Advent can do for us. Don’t let Christmas find you unprepared.” – John Piper
It is hard to associate advent to John the Baptist. The former invokes festivity, and the later, somber piety. But both, ideally ought to hold the same meaning. John was tasked ‘to make ready for the Lord a people prepared’ (Lk 1:16-17, ESV). Advent, essentially means arrival of the awaited. And the way the Bible treats it, is by the word of repentance to prepare us for the Lord. (Mk 1:5) Why? The Apostle Luke notes, ‘to turn … the disobedient to the wisdom of the just’. (Lk 1:17, ESV)
The following are four important points to ponder upon, as a way of observing advent:
- First, we need to accept our need of a Saviour. Because otherwise, Christmas has no meaning. “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, they that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Mk 2:17, KJV) Piper puts this point promptly, “Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight”. (pg. 1)
- Second, engage in somber self-examination. We can never repent, until the grace of God enlightens us of our sins. So, we seek earnestly, the heart of repentance in prayer (more so, especially in this season when we are together with our close ones). We should employ the heart of festivity in encouraging one another in growing closer to God, by making repentance a communal effort. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps 139:23-24, ESV)
- Third, build godly anticipation. “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13, ESV) We ought to learn to build godly anticipation in the advent season; based on biblical hope of new birth – of fruitful Christian lives. “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (Js 1:18, ESV). The anticipation of celebrating Christmas shouldn’t be clouded by the prospects of exceeding worldly merriment.
- Fourth, be scripture-saturated. All the above three points we have discussed cannot become a reality in our lives until and unless we are fed well by the word of God. Piper advices, be much in the scripture, for the word of God is a great fire (Jr 23:29) that not only lights up our lives, but keeps us warm through the darkest of nights. (pg. 2)
As we enter the month of December, let us prepare our hearts in accordance to the Word and Will of the LORD, who comes to birth us anew. Let it not be in us, that He finds no room. Let the manger be in our hearts this year. (Lk 2:7)
Note: All of Piper’s quotations are from “Good News of Great Joy“.
Read the previous entry in this Series:
(i) Introduction: What Christ wants this Christmas