Our redemption is the culmination of a story that we walk through in our service of Lessons and Carols. It began with the creation of man and woman. In their state of original innocence, they stood “naked and unashamed” before God (Gen 2:25). Their state of innocence was shattered by the first sin, the result of demonic temptation combined with human distrust and disobedience. We heard the first prophesy of our redemption; the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen 15, cf. Rom. 16:20). This seed would sit upon the throne of King David and his kingdom will have no end (Is. 9). God will give us a sign of our deliverance: “The virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Immanuel” (Is. 7). This “rod from the stem of Jesse” will judge righteously and bring peace: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11). He will bring forgiveness: “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Is. 40). We heard the angel Gabriel announce the birth of the seed, the Holy Child, to Mary; we heard Mary respond with the “yes” that answers the “no” of Eve: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). We heard how John the Baptist, in womb of Elizabeth, recognized the Lord Jesus in the womb of Mary and leapt for joy and expectation. In Advent, we wait, with John, in joy and expectation for Jesus to come. And, in obedience to John’s message, we repent and prepare to receive him.
Of course, Jesus is with us now. Jesus does not go away every year and then come back again at Christmas. Rather, we experience time in Christ in a progressive cycle; past and future continually meet in the present. We remember his birth again and look forward to his coming in glory as we prepare to receive him in a new way right now. Advent is a time to prayerfully examine our lives, repent and turn away from all sin, and practice good works that show our repentance is genuine (Luke 3:8-9). If we prepare in this manner, Christ will come to us to pardon our iniquity and reward the good works we have done in the Spirit—this year at Christmas, and at the end of time.
Our good works start at home. We must not be content to do our good works “out there” while we settle for animosity in our close relationships. We must practice the peace we proclaim. Our good works will include support for good works being done by others. During Advent and Lent we often focus on a particular work and raise support for it. This year in Advent we are focusing on Mama Mirriam, a woman who founded and operates an orphanage in South Africa. I visited her orphanage about six years ago, and we have supported her work since then. Mama Mirriam is woman of great faith. She experienced trauma in her life, but she found grace through our Lord Jesus Christ to turn that trauma into ministry to others. She is a worthy woman and her work is worthy of our support and our prayers, as we turn from sin and do good works in preparation for the coming of Jesus.