What do you need to prepare for an apocalypse? In the liturgical church the color of advent is purple. Purple is worn at Advent and Lent, and it signals a season of repentance. We need to repent every day; in fact, we will live our best lives when we repent feverishly and regularly. These two seasons of the church calendar bring a hyper-focus on repentance. Repentance is a powerful force in the remaking of the world and our individual souls.
When we encounter the too-good-to-be-true reality that the celestial God of heaven penetrated the galactical gap between heaven and earth by taking on the form of humanity in the womb of Mary, we cannot fully take it in until we see the enormity of sin, both personal and universal, that must be destroyed in order to restore the universe. John the Baptist had the role to prepare the way for the Lord. He did this by proclaiming the universal facts that we are all fallen, finite and fouled-up people. Though sin manifests its ugly self in different ways, some obvious to others and some in secret disguise, all souls demand repentance in order to survive the apocalypse of this world.
Repentance becomes a friend at Advent, forcing our souls to dig a little deeper and consider more honestly how focused we have become on the idols of our self-worship and how far we are yet from a full vision of our God who sent His Son as a payment for the sin that we are powerless to overcome. In fact, any time that you find yourself overcoming a sin or sinful habit of the past, know it was not you but the manifestation of Christ in you.
Open your eyes to the sin that is so natural to you that you have become blind to its reality. See the power simple neglecting of time in the word, focusing on prayer, interact with a neighbor, make the long line a more pleasant experience by being kind, judge others’ sins rather than praying for them more intensely, has had on your soul. See the numbness to God as a side effect of sin’s reality pervading your life. Then do what John the Baptist said, repent. The Jesus prayer is a spiritual tool for daily repentance and connection to God. “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Based on the prayer when Jesus praised the tax collector in Luke 18:13). It is called a breath prayer, and we are encouraged to pray it throughout the day as we breathe in and breathe out. You can use it while exercising to keep your mind on the beauty of Advent. God found a way to bring a radical transformation of a sin-soaked universe into a God-lighted creation by sending His only Son to be born, live, die a sinner’s death, resurrect from the dead and become the firstborn among the living to receive life with God after death. The birth of Christ from the womb of a virgin set in motion the apocalypse of the world as we know it. When we are united with Christ through repentance, our souls begin to long for the day that everything will be made right and sin will no longer have any domain in our souls or in our world. That day is coming, and it comes today as we defeat sin through the power of repentance and the invitation of the Holy Spirit to lead us through the darkness and traps of this world.
There is no time when we need the Holy Spirit’s help more in these matters than Christmas. We can easily get trapped by trying to make a perfect Christmas experience when the perfect Christmas is about communing with heaven so fully that we receive the angel message of favor and peace. It is contentment with the people God sends to be with you, whether you are far away from home and required by government regulations to take a journey you would rather not travel. Advent is about maintaining the spiritual disciplines of daily Bible reading, prayer and giving so that you are in the right places to meet the people God has sent to encourage you. (Mary and Joseph went to the temple out of obedience to Jewish law and met Simeon and Anna whose words of faith stayed with them for their lifetimes.)
Make repentance a radical reality of your Advent Season. It’s the best way to prepare for the Apocalypse.