Christ is born!
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; make His paths straight.’” Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:1-6)
Confession of sins is not something invented by Christianity. Judaism already knew the practice – one seeks God’s forgiveness and mercy when one is aware that one has sinned against God. John the Baptist called people to repentance knowing that the Lord is God of those who repent. God is a forgiving God to those who come to Him in repentance—this is the witness of the Old Testament.
Do not be ashamed to enter the church (to confess). Be ashamed when you sin but not when you repent. (St John Chrysostom, WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS SAY ABOUT… Vol 2, p 58)
We humble ourselves in repentance and admit our need of God’s grace and mercy. Each of us seeks God’s forgiveness for the specific ways we each have sinned against God. This is not simply a general acknowledgement that we all sin, but a specific enumeration of our faults. We acknowledge we actually need God’s forgiveness, admit our struggles and failures with our passions and temptations. St Innocent of Moscow says:
What is confession? Confession is the oral avowal of the sins which lie heavy laden upon one’s conscience. Confession, however, only empties the soul from sins, but repentance cleanses it and makes it ready to receive the Holy Spirit. . . . And even more important, do you want to bring a sacrifice to God such as will be acceptable to him? Naturally all gladly want this and in the measure within our power to bring it. But what can we bring Him really acceptable? – a contrite heart! ‘A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart‘ (Psalm 50:19). Here is an offering to God more priceless than all offerings and oblations! (WHAT THE CHURCH FATHERS SAY ABOUT… Vol 2, p 59-61)
Many church fathers advocated Christians to examine their consciences daily, to admit to our sins while they are fresh on our minds so that they don’t sink into our hearts and become a heart condition. It is also a good thing to do as the old year comes to an end. We can examine our lives to see where we have sinned against God and neighbor and make a new beginning in the New Year.