Monday, December 2, 2013

Where Are You, Advent?

Thanksgiving has come and gone in whirlwind fashion lasting barely a day, as Black Friday shopping was set to begin anywhere from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM Thursday and continued until stores closed Friday evening.  Saturday, brought more shopping and tension trying to assist, appease, or otherwise cater to extended family until tempers flared.  On top of this activity, the house and Christmas tree were completely decorated, after which came a collapse from utter exhaustion.  I dare say this was true in 75-85% of homes this past weekend, all in anticipation of Christmas Day.

As tempting as another diatribe on the commercialization of Christmas might be with all the media promotion and Christmas songs on the radio that began right after Halloween, I wish to ask a question.  Where is the season of Advent?

Advent literally means “coming” or “arrival,” and most Christians, if they were aware of the concept, would identify it as pointing to Jesus’ birth, whereas everyone else who celebrates this holiday would simply view it as a countdown to the giving of gifts on December 25th.  Even Advent calendars tend to promote a festive month rather than the coming of the King of kings, and even then the focus is on his birth alone missing the breadth of meaning bound up in this period.

Historically, Advent looks to a three-fold coming of Jesus.  The first is the most celebrated, that of his birth in Bethlehem, and we rightly remember that miraculous event.  The others are more obscure to the general public, because they speak of covenant and judgment—themes absent from common parlance.  The covenantal coming is recognized as his people gather each Sunday in worship and the Lord’s Supper: first, he has promised to be wherever his people are gathered in his name; and second, there are his words at the institution of his supper—“This is my body which is for you … This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:24-25).  The elements are uniquely joined to Christ and testify of his giving himself to and for us.  The third coming will be that time when he will come with a rod of iron and a sword in his mouth when he will judge the living and the dead.  The sheep will be separated from the goats with the latter going into eternal punishment, while the former are received into eternal blessing and glory.

As we celebrate this season, look not only to Joseph, Mary, and a manger.  Look to the one “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8).  It is his three-fold arrival we are to keep in view.

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