Christ is coming! Advent is the name of the game. Advent actually means “arrival” particularly of a notable person. In this case, God Himself. In fact, He has come, He is coming, and He will come again. And He always shows up differently. Imagine if you always entered your house a different way. God is sort of like that – like one day He takes the front door. One day He takes the window over the rose bushes. Another day, He climbs up a tree jumps onto the roof and comes down the chimney like He-who-shall-not-yet-be-named. Think about it: the Lord shows up throughout the OT in a variety of ways – as a burning bush, a cloud, a pillar of fire, a still small voice, some think that Our Lord was the very rock that He told Moses to strike with the staff so that water might burst forth to give the people something to drink. And then we focus in this season on how He will come into the world and into our new year as an infant like each one of us. But we also think forward to the end of time when He will come again with great power as our judge.
Today, we know we are about four weeks away from the arrival of the Christ-child, so it is on our horizon, but we hear Jesus speaking in some rather bold language about His return at the end.
You see all things in this world were made through Christ and then creation fell from grace due to Adam and Eve – and yet He didn’t simply start all over. Rather, He has always granted them the wonderful ability to human beings to do things freely, and to continue to act in freedom even in doing wrong – even to the point of surrendering their freedom to other things not at all worthy of themselves. And yet He came into the world to show people the way back to freedom and love and at some point He will come again to bring all of His creation to its end in Him and all that has been made and is good shall be united to Him and find its home in a new creation that will no longer fall and will last in eternity.
Now people have wondered when this might happen for so long and so far have always been disappointed, and for as long as there has been Christianity there has been reason to become fatigued with the whole idea and ask, “Do I really need to be concerned about the second coming of Christ?” I would say that Jesus spending any time at all – and He does spend some time in today’s Gospel for instance – describing what it will look like: signs in the sun, moon, stars, nations dismayed, roaring of the oceans and seas, people dying of fright – if Jesus is going to talk about it – we should pay attention. And that is the point to some degree. Maybe it won’t come in our lifetimes, maybe it will, but we were not around at the beginning of the universe. Recall Jesus was. We have not overseen the vast tract of history. Jesus has. We are not the center of the universe even now – and we could be close to the end…in any event we are at the cusp of this very moment into which Jesus is always willing to descend if we have an open heart to receive Him (which is the best way to prepare for His eventual Day of Judgment). He warns us to be vigilant and pray at all times and the more that we admit that He is at the heart of Creation we will not be caught off guard.
How does the Son of Man flying across the sky on a cloud with power and great glory fit with Jesus coming 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem? Because if we go outside standing on our two legs that is, and if we look out to see the horizon – we shall have to look up – and if we look out towards the end of time we shall also end up looking towards the sky and towards the God who made us. It is thinking about the end of the world or the end of our lives that forces us to admit our own infancy before the rest of the universe and we can relate so much the better to the child soon to inhabit the crib.
So, what are some ways to prepare for the Final Arrival of Jesus? The best is to consider again that Christ wants to meet us Now. One author I recently read from mentioned that the two most supreme moments in any of our lives is the end of our lives and the Present moment. To welcome Christ Now – we should pray. We can tell Christ what we are afraid of and ask Him to help us to see things as they truly are. We can go to confession and receive Christ in the sacrament of mercy. That way we can show win the judge over before our case even goes to trial. Confession is the key to freedom to receive Jesus most fully into our lives through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the key to freedom – the freedom to give our lives entirely in love for Jesus possesses us.
Time is always in onstage whenever the subject of Advent come up. The circular wreath symbolizes the eternity of God who has no beginning or end. The candles are four in number each symbolizing a thousand years that according to an ancient Biblical timeline span from Adam and Eve to the coming of our Lord. And the evergreen branches that make the
wreath symbolize the continuous life that Christ gives us. The symbols are a comfort and they do us the favor of reminding us that Christ is always returning in different and in varied ways, but always with the purpose of lighting up the world…so let us watch the entrances.