Why Advent is a Blessing for Sinners… (like me)
Devotional Thought of the Day:
7 But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.f 8 If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves,* and the truth is not in us.g 9 If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.h 10 If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.1 Jn 1:7–10) NAB-RE
“Confession has not been abolished by the preachers on our side. The custom has been retained among us of not administering the sacrament to those who have not previously been examined and absolved.
2 At the same time the people are carefully instructed concerning the consolation of the Word of absolution so that they may esteem absolution as a great and precious thing.
3 It is not the voice or word of the man who speaks it, but it is the Word of God, who forgives sin, for it is spoken in God’s stead and by God’s command.
4 We teach with great diligence about this command and power of keys and how comforting and necessary it is for terrified consciences. We also teach that God requires us to believe this absolution as much as if we heard God’s voice from heaven, that we should joyfully comfort ourselves with absolution, and that we should know that through such faith we obtain forgiveness of sins.”
Part of the purpose of Advent within the Church year consists in reviving once more this awareness in us. It should urge us to confront these truths, to admit the extent of our lack of redemption, which did not simply exist in the world at some time and perhaps still exists somewhere but which is a present reality within ourselves and within the Church. The Christian existence, therefore, includes this as well: that we, out of the distress of our own darkness, like the man Job, dare to speak to God. It also means that we do not think we could present to God only half of our existence and must spare him all the rest because it might grieve him. No—to Him in particular we may and must carry the total burden of our existence in complete honesty.
There is a patterned to which the church year flows, one reflected in the Northern Hemisphere’s calendar. As the year ends, and begins, the days grow shorter, the amount of light we see daily diminishes, as often with it, hope. People deal with more depression, and grieve deeply, as the oncoming holidays remind them of the loved one’s they miss.
Sins become more magnified, as we have more time to dwell on them. Both those sins that were committed against us, and those which we ourselves commit. Again, because of more time in darkness, we have more time to think, to ponder, to feel the guilt, to be weighed down by the shame. To realize how much we are beyond any help,
save the help of God.
I think Pope Benedict nails it, in the third quote above, when he say we shouldn’t spare God the grief of dealing with half of our existence, we may and MUST carry the total burden to Him, in complete honesty. (I am reminded of people who filter out their pastors and priests from seeing ALL of their facebook/twitter feeds, because they feel ashamed, or are afraid of feeling that way!) If we need help, if we need to be rescued from the crushing weight of sin and shame, then He is the person, He is our Hope, He is our answer.
As the Lutheran Confessions say, when the pastor/priest speaks the words absolving you of sin, they aren’t just his words, they are the words of God you need to hear, that you must hear. This absolution is the comfort that relieves the guilt and the shame. That is why we talk of it as such a great treasure.
As I’ve been contemplating Advent, and the nature of repentance, penitence, I am realizing more and more we need to go through such times of self-evaluation. of coming face to face with our sin. Of realizing the depth of it. Not to end up drowning in guilt and self-loathing, but because it will bring us to the Father in heaven, it will cause us like Job, like Abraham, to work with God honestly. To run to Him, because He is our hope.
This is what confession is, the very thing God knew we needed. To hear his voice, through others He called and commanded to be there for you, to say the words, “you are forgiven, in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
So take the time during this advent, during this time when darkness seems to hide all that is good and holy, to consider, confess, and be comforted by God.
Tappert, T. G. (Ed.). (1959). The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (pp. 61–62). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.
Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 382). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.