We generally prepare for Christmas by decorating our homes, attending parties, eating too much, and opening gifts. We entertain pleasant thoughts of a placid baby in an idyllic rural setting on a calm night. But for John the Baptist, Jesus’ coming triggered an radically different response. He called people to repent. He said, “…after me comes one who is more powerful than I…His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:11-12). John did not want them amused by a cute Baby but sobered by a mighty King.
Church history provides a helpful corrective to many of our modern church practices. While we are accustomed to red and green, the traditional colors of advent are purple or dark blue. These colors reflect royalty and signal the coming of the King. And they should move us to humility and penitence.
For us, the entire season is one of joy and celebration. But for many throughout church history this period before Christmas was marked by sobriety and somber expectation. It is certainly good news that the High King is coming. But we should never forget that he is coming to rule. He is coming to carry out judgment against his enemies. He is coming to put an end to sin. He is coming to put an end to our sin.
Advent means “coming.” And while we generally reflect on Jesus’ first coming, we are meant to look ahead to his second coming. This is the great hope of the believ- er. But it should also be a powerful motivator toward holiness. He is not coming as a gentle lamb but as a roaring lion.
Certainly, the Christmas season should be marked by joy. For this very reason, the third candle to be lit is pink as a symbol of joy. And the arrival of Christmas day marks the beginning of the actual Christmas season. This season of celebration lasts for twelve days (This is where we get “the twelve days of Christmas”). During this season, the colors shift to white and gold. But before we get to the joy and celebration, let’s prepare ourselves appropriately for the arrival of the King.
Photo credit: https://pixnio.com/objects/candles/candle-light-decoration-dark-flame-fire