Despite what the local radio stations and giant retailers say, we are not yet in the season of Christmas. We are now in that glorious season of Advent. “Advent” comes to us from the Latin word “adventus” which roughly translated means “coming.” We are waiting for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, or as the ubiquitous hymn prays “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
We look to advent as a time of crystalline magic, full of wonder, joy, and anticipation for the Christmas celebration. How many of our most heart-warming childhood memories found their origin by warm holiday hearths? As children we are giddy at the thought of all the presents under the tree. As adults, we delight in the time of love and fellowship this time brings. And if we go even deeper, we celebrate the fact that the God of the Universe, He Who the Universe could not contain, humbled Himself to be born into a Bethlehem stable.
But here’s the thing: it already happened. Christmas was a one and done. Yes, the spirit of Christmas can come alive in our hearts anew, but the historical reality of it is ended. So does that mean we no longer have any real joy in anticipation?
Of course not. That is the second meaning of Advent. We are waiting for the Lord to come. Again.
This event is known as the Parousia or “The Second Coming.” In the old mass formula, we would proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. And when he comes, the world as we know it will end.
I know that for many of us, thoughts about the end of the world fill us with a kind of existential dread. The thought of this earthly life ending can cause us great fear. That’s normal. What is particularly concerning is that we have no idea when this will happen. We often like to push away the idea of Judgment Day back to the recesses of the far future, probably after Star Trek times but before the Morlocks begin making cuisine of the Eloi.
But C.S. Lewis pointed out that the Lord made no indication of how long. We don’t know if we are in the first act of the play or if we are at the last line of the last scene and the curtain is about to fall.
Scary? Maybe. But we also have to remember that even if the entire world does not end until the centuries fly by, our world will end soon. And by “our world,” I mean our individual life. We are all going to die and none of us know when that will be. But like our thoughts about the end, we like to put off that idea until later. We assume we have years left, and we very well may. Or we may only have days. Or hours.
We have no guarantee of life from moment to moment. And the end is waiting for us suddenly like a thief in the night.
Here’s the thing: we don’t need to be. The people before the first Christmas were rightfully afraid because they knew that they were sinners and they knew that they would die in their sin. But after the Baby was born under that star, we have been given a Savior. He can rob us of our sin an open up the gates of heaven to us.
And what is that place like? Without getting into too much detail, it will be awesome. Revelation 21:4 says, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.”
If that is the case, if heaven is everything it’s cracked up to be, then who is the more blessed: the one who goes there after 19 years or 90? I ask my students if they could start their summer break in February, would they. They respond, “Of course.” I ask them, “Why?” They tell me that they have more fun in summer than being in school.
And we will have more than fun in heaven. We will have love, joy, peace, bliss, and eternal comfort. This is what is waiting for us if we are saved. This is what Jesus brings with the Second Coming. This is why we pray “Thy Kingdom Come” in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray for the Lord to return to this world and bring it to its hasty conclusion.
The Hebrew sentiment for this is “Maranatha,” which means, “Come, Lord.” It is not just an invitation. It is a desperate plea for a speedy return.
Next week is too far away. Like a little child who cannot wait for the coming of Christmas, so too we should be giddy with excitement that the Lord is on His way.
This Advent, let us open our hearts in a new way. Let us look through the lens of Christmas, the day that is past, and peer forward to the day that is to come. This time, the Lord of Life will not descend from Heaven to Earth. Rather, He will raise up Earth to Heaven.
Copyright © 2012, W.L. Grayson