When our kids were little our Christmas preparations always included the purchase of those chocolate-filled Advent calendars. For the whole month of December there was a nightly ritual of opening the door for that day and enjoying the chocolate treat. The countdown continued and at the end of these daily chocolates there was the certainty of Christmas! For children and adults the celebration of Christmas remains magical!
One nice thing about Christmas is that the birth of Christ never changes. Every year the story is the same. It’s a soothing story of God becoming human in a very humbling way. He didn’t come as a king in all His glory. He didn’t come with threats of vengeance. He arrived as the child of a poor couple who were a long way from home, so they laid their newborn baby (God) in an animal feeding trough. God chose to dwell among His people so He sent Jesus to become one of us. Jesus became one of us so that He could take our place under God’s judgment. That was His first Advent.
But, the other Advent of Christ that we observe in this season is His second coming – the one that hasn’t happened yet. There are no mass-marketed daily chocolates that we eat in anticipation of this. We don’t even know for sure when it will happen. But it won’t be anything like His first Advent. He won’t be coming back in a lowly manner, but in all of His glory. That’ll be the great and awesome Day of the Lord – His Judgment Day.
This story isn’t entirely soothing, because the runup to Jesus’ return will be filled with suffering and turmoil. The world will be in terrible shape, with natural disasters and human treachery filling the news. There will be weeping and despair. Some people will wish they’d never been born. Upon His arrival the Lord won’t be cutely cooing and dressed in swaddling clothes – He’ll be wielding His sword as a fearsome Rider on a white horse. He’ll be levelling the world with His justice, separating the sheep from the goats. You just don’t find a lot of greeting cards with Currier & Ives scenes of Christ’s return!
I’m guessing that when we begin the annual season of Advent we’re putting about 90% of our emphasis on celebrating the Lord’s first Advent. We string the lights, we put up the tree, we arrange our manger scenes. Our children open the daily chocolates and let visions of sugar-plums dance in their heads.
Perhaps we have it backwards. Maybe we should be putting 90% of our energy into preparing for Christ’s next Advent. God has kept His promise to come to us in humility. Now His outstanding promise is to come to us in exaltation. Jesus has told us to be ready and to live as if His return is imminent. Let’s be found exploring His Word, partaking of His Sacraments and singing of His return:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come; let earth receive her King!