1 Advent, December 2
The beginning of the Church year is the beginning of ruminations on the end of all things. In a few short phrases the prophet Jeremiah signals urgency and pleads for a hearing: “The days are surely coming, says the Lord,” “In those days and at that time,” and again, “In those days.” He promises that a righteous branch will spring up from David. A King of Kings, a Lord of Lords, will come and demonstrate sovereign power chiefly in showing mercy. In the fullness of time, this promise arrives in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. The coming of Jesus is the arrival of the end. Human history and providence meet to reveal the Word made flesh, through whom all things were made, all things are guided, all things are brought to their consummation in God. Jesus Christ is the center of all things, the purpose in all time, and he directs all toward the heart of the Father. He is the beginning, the middle, and the end.
Evil obscures but does not erase the intervention of God in Christ. Trial and suffering, persecution and injustice, hatred and greed spoil so much of what could be a deeper and fuller life. We see the overflowing life of Christ as our own, and yet we see through a glass dimly. We have wounds, and we carry them; we have tears, and we let them fall. But hope is not lost. Knowing Jesus means knowing how to wait. Calling the church in Thessalonica to mutual love, St. Paul also tells them to wait for another coming. “And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen yours hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (1 Thess. 3:11-13).
This second coming, an article of the Christian creed, is often ignored or treated with embarrassment. Early Christians expected Jesus to return soon. He didn’t. They were wrong. In places where the Second Coming is emphasized and preached today, it is often used to incite fear and justify absurd predictions.
What then are we to do with the phrase He will come again to judge the living and the dead? It might help to recall that the Nicene Creed, written in Greek, uses the present participle (ἐρχόμενον), thereby saying He is coming. The Latin version of the Creed used in the West employs the future participle (venturus est), saying He is about to come. Together, they suggest present urgency rather than some event in the distant future. We are to live as if he is about to come. And, indeed, he is coming moment by moment in the power of his Spirit, and he will come at the end of time to renew all things.
The signs of his coming are all around us. “There will be signs,” Jesus says, “in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the seas and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Luke 21:25-27).
These are the times in which we live, in which we are called to be on guard and to be alert. Christian living is waiting for the one who is about to come. Behold. He stands at the door; he rides upon the cloud; he is the first light of every day.
Look It Up
Read Luke 21:34.
Think About It
Be on guard, but not weighed down.