Jesus was not quite the king that most people would have expected (or imagined for themselves).  He came lowly and gentle, riding upon a donkey.  This fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.  The season of Advent is not what most Christians would choose for themselves, especially when the world beckons us to a different view of kingship and of this season.  For them, Christmas is in the air and has already begun, whereas for us a new church year has begun and repentance colored with hope is heard everywhere.

What about Christmas decorations in our home and in the church?  In my single days I had not a single Christmas decoration up.  I came to church near Christmas and found two trees, one with 33 red apples and one with 33 white roses.  The first tree depicts the Law of God which points out our sin, which in turn leads to death, which in turn--by God's mercy--evokes repentance from us.  The second tree depicts the Gospel which is God's gift and goal of that repentance He works in us, the Good News of absolution, the Good News of Jesus' birth.  I came from my bare home to the church on Christmas morning to receive Christ's Body and Blood in the Divine Service...what joy!

Now that I am married our family puts up a tree and decorations (though being wary of cats) before these are arranged in the church.  According to the contours of my vocation as husband and father our home looks not much different from homes of neighbors all around us.  Nevertheless, the church's vocation to teach the truth holds good and Advent is not allowed to be turned aside since it has an important message for us.

One of those messages is to prepare...don't think you are fine as you are.  We all need to repent and listen again to God's Word.  Repentance is not about decoration, but about stripping bare the truth of your heart and nature before God.  The season of Advent itself beautifully depicts the life of repentance:  truthful confession is followed by joyous absolution...Advent preparation is followed by our Christmas joy!  

Another message is to *wait*.  This is especially appropriate in our modern, Western culture which is unable to wait for anything.  We let things unfold in their proper order, we celebrate Christmas upon its happening (and for up to two weeks following as it rings out and forward into the world).  This waiting is especially evident in the saints of the Old Testament who waited for God to fulfill His promises (Genesis 3:15, Genesis 22:15-18, Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 53, Zechariah 9:11).  One could say that Advent is the most "Jewish"-like season of the church year.  The next time we are tempted to withdraw from the Old Testament writings we have an entire season of the church year that simply will not allow us to do that, a season that reminds us--even in the New Testament era--the importance of waiting and of listening humbly for God to fulfill His Word and promises for us who live in the light of Christ.