Advent is a time of looking back, remembering the faithful people who were waiting for the salvation God had promised, as 1 Peter 1:10-12 tells us.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
Then the very next verses continue by turning our eyes forward in Advent, looking toward the return of Jesus.
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. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:13-19)
There will be another advent of Christ; he will come again. This makes Advent a season for introspection. Peter gives us God’s high standard as we contemplate our standing with him: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). This is a time to ask ourselves questions like:
- Am I clear-thinking and sober-minded, or are my concerns mainly trivial? (verse 13)
- Is my hope set fully on the grace I will receive from Jesus at his Second Coming, or do I cringe at the thought of leaving behind the life I love? (verse 13)
- Am I an obedient child of my Father, or am I still shaped by the passions that drove me before? (verse 14)
If regular personal devotions are not part of our lives, this would be a time tailormade to begin. We remember that God charged the adults in Deuteronomy 11 to “lay up these words in your heart and in your soul” (verse 18), and that he expects us to “love the LORD [our] God” (verse 1).
The living water in our own hearts is the fountain from which we shower Christ on those close to us. Our time with God and his preparation of us is a necessary foundation. Without it our Christmas activities will degenerate into hoopla.
But however much we want a significant Christmas celebration, that is not the primary reason for our contemplation and self-examination. Our deeper motivation is the strengthening of our ultimate hope in Jesus, “so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).
May this time be a reflection of what our lives are—gratitude for the promises that were fulfilled when God gave us the gift of his son and anticipation of and preparation for Christ’s coming again.
(Adapted from Treasuring God in Our Traditions)