It's the first day of Advent; thus, the first day of the liturgical year. So...Happy New Year! But in contradistinction to the new year in the West, the Church's new year begins not with celebration, but with preparation; not with revelry but with repentance.
But why do we prepare? Why do we repent? Because the Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords is coming. We will soon meet him at the end of the age or, if he tarries, at the end of our lives (which are but a vapor as St. James says). In addition, the King is coming in the manger. And we need to prepare to meet him afresh, to glory in the mystery of the Incarnation. And to do this we must (in cooperation with grace) as today's collect said "cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light." For if we do not then will not know the day of our visitation. Finally, we must prepare, we must heed the Baptist's cry on bank of the Jordan, for we do truly encounter and even feast upon our Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
One of the ways that we can prepare, that is, keep a holy Advent, is by joining in the liturgical life the Church. At All Souls, I've prepared an Advent Guide drawing on the readings from the Daily Office in order to help us marinade in the themes of the season. It's basically a starter version of Morning and Evening Prayer. Each day of Advent, there is is a Scripture reading taken from the lectionary. Today, the reading is 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.
Advent is a clarion call to wake us from our sleep. It's a trumpet preparing us for the trumpet. Paul in the 1 Thessalonians urges believers to be ready and prepared for the coming of the Lord. He reminds us who we are and whose we are. We are children of the light, of the age to come, thus we need to act like it. And though the coming of the Lord will be sudden it should not surprise us and it certainly shouldn't find us asleep, that is, living as though still dead in our trespasses and sin:
8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
The call to repentance is a call to life. So let us heed it this Advent that we may encounter the present and coming king like never before.