Today is the first Sunday of December and preparation for the Christmas season have already began.

Advent promises new life because: It means our sins can be forgiven. Think for a moment of the worst thing you have ever done — the thing that makes your brain burn with shame. And then think of what it would be like if Jesus had not come and you could not be forgiven for your sin. What would that be like? Your guilt would never be relieved, and condemnation would always be hanging over your head. But since Jesus came, forgiveness has come to those of us who have received the grace that Christ came to offer. We know the freedom that forgiveness brings. We can forgive ourselves and others because we have experienced the liberating forgiveness that Jesus Christ came to give us.

But if Jesus had never come, we would have only commandments to follow, and we would never hear the great words of the New Testament: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16_17). We would be missing a Savior. There would be no talk of forgiveness and reconciliation to God, only laws to be obeyed. Grace would not be a word in our vocabulary. We would talk about justice, and people getting what they deserved, rather than finding mercy with God. If Jesus had never come, the woman caught in adultery would never have heard the words: “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

The Bible says, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1). We are children of God because we have been forgiven as an act of the grace Jesus Christ made possible by his atoning death. It is as simple, and as difficult, as humbling ourselves and asking for the forgiveness which he offers. But this is more than forgiveness, it brings about a transformation in our lives. The Bible says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever_increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Christ came to not only clean our hearts, but to change our hearts. We are being transformed into his character more and more with each passing day. Because we live with him, we are becoming like him. His Holy Spirit is working in us to produce his image.

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