Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent, the season of preparation for Christmas, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Why do we prepare for Christmas? How do we prepare for Christmas?
We should prepare for Christmas because it is an important event. Everyone has heard of the celebration of Christmas and they know its date, December 25th. But what is the point of Christmas? Gifts? The tree? Food? Reunions with the family? The songs? They are all part of Christmas and we have to plan and prepare for these things. For example, a family needs a lot of time to make hallacas.
However, Christmas is more than these things. More that the parties, more than the songs, more than the gifts. At Christmas we remember the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as the Baby of Bethlehem. We remember the story of Joseph and Mary in the stable. Mary gave birth to her Son and placed Him in a manger with animals all around.
In the field the angels appeared to the shepherds. Every Sunday we sing his song: Glory to God, who is in the heavens, on earth, peace to men. The shepherds were the first people to see the Baby Jesus in His manger.
One question, then. Who was the first person to greet the Son of Mary? Luke did not only tell the story of the shepherds on Christmas Eve, but Luke also wrote the story of what happened before. The archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had conceived a Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then Mary went to her relative, Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah. Elizabeth was pregnant for six months with John the Baptist. This was also a miraculous conception, because Zacharias and Elizabeth were past childbearing age. And John in the womb of his mother leaped to greet Jesus in the womb of his mother.
This implies that which is in the womb of a woman is a living being and more, a human being. What forms in the womb before birth is a person. Remember this when someone says it's all right to abort a baby because the parents do not want a child.
John was born and raised, and lived in the desert by the Jordan River, dressed in a camel's coat. He called people to the baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world. According to God's promise, the Jews, descendants of Abraham, received this message and the opportunity to repent first.
Repentance is the recognition of sin and the need for a Savior. When someone thinks, "I am a good person," he does not recognize his need for a Savior. But, in truth, we are all sinners and need a Savior. The Greek word translated "repentance" means "change of mind". The penitent has a new mind and a new heart. He does not want to walk in the darkness, but in the light, as a child of God. When we acknowledge our sins, we are ready to receive the forgiveness of sins that is possible because of Christ.
There are four Sundays in the season of Advent, four weeks to repent of our sins, to reflect on our lives and to pray for others. In this way we prepare to receive the most precious gift, Jesus Christ. It is worth more than all other gifts, because he suffered and died on the cross for us and by his resurrection won the promise of eternal life for us.
Therefore, those who believe in Jesus Christ have all the joy of Christmas, joy deeper than non-believers. And we have peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.
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