“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our fathers in days long ago.”
This coming Sunday will be the first Sunday of Advent. For many this will be a delightful day in which we begin to sing Christmas carols and which we light the first Advent candle. The songs of the Incarnation always seem to move our hearts in joyful worship. I must confess that I love singing the Christmas carols, as they are among some of the most delightful of the hymns of the Church. Advent looks ahead to the main event, the celebration of Christmas itself. We love every part of that day. We eagerly anticipate its coming each year.
This week I looked up the definition of advent and made some discoveries. For the Christian Church Advent is a season of anticipation where we look forward to the coming of our Redeemer, the Incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. With this anticipation of His arrival we find ourselves immersed in hope that all that His coming means with become reality in our lives. As Phillips Brooks writes in his masterful hymn “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” That line from O Little Town of Bethlehem captures our mood as we enter into advent this year.
There is however a third element to the definition of Advent for the Christian Church. This is the call to repentance which the season brings. John the Baptist came and called people to prepare the way of the Lord. In doing so John was letting his world and ours know that any communion with God requires repentance. We must turn to Him. This was as well the message of the Prophets. They were sent to call God’s people back to Him. Their message is filled with the word of the Advent. God is coming among us. Isaiah even has a Word or a Name to designate His coming, Emmanuel, God with us. Therefore it should not surprise us that a substantial portion of the focus of Advent is upon the Prophetic message.
That message consistently confronts us with the character of the God we worship. Micah writes, “Who is a God like you?” In fact that is the meaning of the Prophet’s name. This is a key thought for us to focus upon this Advent season. What do the Scriptures tell us about the character of God? How is this reflected in the mighty works which He accomplished in the Incarnation of Christ?
Here we encounter the God of grace who became human flesh and dwelt among us so that He could redeem us from our sin. The only response that is adequate to such great grace is one of believing worship.