Another year has come and almost gone! The season of Advent has arrived and with it the promise of the Messiah’s coming, Jesus Christ, God’s anointed! Our worship and our thoughts naturally turn to the celebration of our Saviour’s birth, the mystery of the Incarnation, as God entered time and space and became man!
To fully express this truth in words, the apostle John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1:1-14, ESV].
The word Advent comes to us from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival”. The Season of Advent reminds us both of Christ’s First Coming as “the babe of Bethlehem” as well as the promise of His Second Coming as the King of kings and the Lord of lords” the eternal, ruling and reigning Christ!
Although Advent is often looked upon as a time of preparation for Christmas, the Lectionary points us toward the eschatological (end time) themes of the Second Coming.
Therefore, the purpose of the Advent season is to call us to reflect upon the historical coming of Christ as our Saviour and, at the same time, to make preparation for His Second appearing when He comes to judge the living and the dead.
The apostle John who spoke of the Incarnation also directs our attention to the hope of the Second Advent. Listen closely to John’s words of promise, hope, and assurance as found in the Revelation, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. 7The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son” [Revelation 21:1-7, ESV].
While we look back to the First Advent of the babe in Bethlehem in our day, we are also challenged to look forward to the promise of His return and the full and complete consummation of all human history. Therefore, it is in this double focus of the now and the not yet that the season of Advent symbolizes our spiritual journey. Like Pilgrim in the great work Pilgrim’s Progress, we are, in this life, on our journey to the heavenly city. That is why the words of the Eucharistic liturgy are so important to us as we affirm our faith in the Second Advent of our Saviour as we say, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ shall come again!”
Advent speaks to our hearts and minds. It addresses our yearning for deliverance from the evil of this fallen world, the oppression of sin, the tyranny of injustice, the pain of loss, the despondence of despair, and the failures that plague all of us. If our hope is only in our circumstances, we will always be disappointed but our hope in is the living, risen, ascended, and reigning Christ and the promise of His Second Advent shines like a compass, points us out of darkness to the light of God’s great truth, the reality of the Gospel. This is our Christian hope!
During this special time of the year, we need to affirm our hope and our faith. In the First Advent of Jesus, the babe of Bethlehem, our Saviour fulfilled His sacrificial role and pointed us to the promise of His Second Coming as the Victorious, Risen, and Ruling Christ who is coming again to establish His eternal Kingdom.
My personal experience has taught me that those who suffer and yet embrace the hope of the Gospel understand far more about God and life than those who have not. To this eternal end, the apostle Paul reminds us that “we live by faith, not by sight” (I Corinthians 5:7, ESV). When we exercise faith and when we hope in the promises of the Gospel, we see possibilities where there is no present evidence of it and this truly is the promise of the Advent season! Thanks be to God!
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