A Time of Penance and Confession

It is an uncomfortable truth, dear reader, but Advent was not primarily meant to be a season for cookies, heart-warming devotions, and the merely joyous anticipation of Christmas.

Well-tried tradition has it, rather, that Advent is a time of penance and confession, a time of serious preparation for the coming of Christ. This uncomfortable truth may be one of the reasons why the notation of Advent has disappeared from most of the secular calendar books available at common office supply stores.

Penance and confession – what does that mean? Certainly, I do not employ these terms just because my office commits me to a certain amount of religious jargon. Penance and confession – do these words still have meaning in our time?

We do not need to theorize much at this point. Look, for example, at our weekly worship attendance. As a congregation, we are in a growing mode, having received ten new members this year, and nine in 2008.

However, all too often our Sunday morning attendance does not reflect this development. I am concerned about this. There are too many empty spaces in our pews.

Of course, we all live very busy lives. In addition, we have travel plans, chores at home, or the problems of advancing age. It also remains true that the grace of God is unconditional, and that salvation does not presuppose a perfect score-card, as far as worship attendance is concerned.

Yet, it is also true that none of the missing is replaceable on a Sunday morning, really none. It is that easy. Every one of us was created in a unique and special way. None of us shares the same background, the same experiences and feelings. If your pew is empty, someone else cannot fill it the same way. Consequently, our worship gathering remains incomplete that morning.

Enough of this, lest I sound like a stern Calvinist of another time! Yet, if you have not come to church in a while, please draw some of the conclusions yourself. Your church family needs you. Perhaps, Advent this year can become a special time of renewed attendance, a time of celebrating the new stage of completion our new members have given us. May you have a blessed season!

Pastor Hartmut

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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