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Advent – A Time for Penitence

He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’ ” (Luke 13:6-9)

By the time the season of Advent (coming) arrives in our churches, many in our country will have already begun preparations for Christmas.

For many the Advent season is unknown or at least unfamiliar. It is to be a season of preparation,  making ready for the Coming of the Savior.

For many people Christmas preparation is an entirely external exercise. They prepare by dusting off festive knickknacks and placing them strategically around the house. Christmas lights are hung with care. Cookies, fudge, and other seasonal treats are prepared. Christmas music is piped into busy stores as gifts are carefully chosen and purchased. With such externals completed, many consider themselves ready for Christmas.

Advent is indeed a season of preparation, but it is not merely a time to decorate house and yard with trappings of the season. As Christians our Christmas preparations are not merely external but internal. Our hearts need to be examined and sin rooted out so that they may be fit dwelling places for the Christ Child. The knickknacks and distractions of everyday life need to be removed so that Christ the King may come to reign supreme within our hearts.

If we understand the source of true joy in the Advent season, then it will be a time for penitence. When we examine ourselves against the backdrop of God’s holy Law, we will see that the past eleven months have been filled with sin and failure—that we have in no way measured up to God’s perfect standards, to His demand
for holiness.

Even though our faith has been watered and fertilized by God’s Spirit through the Word of God, due to the sinful nature our faith has not always borne much fruit. Have we not often been unloving, unmerciful, and impatient toward both God and our neighbor? Have we not often been unprofitable servants, loving the things of the world, being guilty of lust and greed? Too often this is the case despite the fact that Christ Jesus
has freed us from the law and
from sin and death so that,
enabled by His Spirit, we might serve our God with joyful hearts.

God is looking for servants who delight in bringing forth fruit for Him. Yet have we not often been like the barren fig tree?

Yes… but still the keeper of God’s vineyard, Jesus, intercedes for us. He will continue to remove the weeds and thorns that spring up to choke the vitality of our faith. He will continue to provide the nutrients necessary so faith can mature and produce fruit. He will still have mercy on us… not only during Advent but also as we go forward into the New Year.

The Lord Jesus will continue to prepare us for His Second Coming even as we celebrate His first coming in meekness.

May He grant us sober,
penitent hearts so that, though crushed under the load of our sin, we may rejoice in His longsuffering, mercy, and forgiveness… through the power of the Spirit yearning to bring forth fruits
of faith to His glory.