[The scoffers] will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” – 2 Peter 3:4
I love Advent almost more than Christmas itself. There are three reasons why I’ve come to truly appreciate this season, complete with the lighting of the candles on the Advent wreath. First of all, I believe it is important to remember the events surrounding Jesus’ birth, because “God coming in flesh” is an irreplaceable cornerstone of our faith. Secondly, I love the quiet, reflective times that look forward to welcoming the coming of the Lord anew in our hearts and lives.
But the third reason is bound up in the forward-looking meaning of the word “Advent.” The word comes from the Latin word adventus, used to translate the Greek word parousia (presence, coming, arrival). Parousia is often associated with the second coming of our Lord, a theme that is often forgotten in our post-modern Christian world.
I came to faith in Christ as a child in the 1960s. During my teenage years, while many of my peers were talking about the Beatles, the Vietnam War and student demonstrations, my world was impacted by the Jesus movement. And a big part of that impact was the emphasis on the Second Coming of Christ. Songs like Larry Norman’s “I wish we’d all been ready” and the release of Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth were calls to prepare for the return of the Lord.
Unfortunately, anticipation of the physical return of Jesus has almost died out in many Christian circles. Kingdom work often emphasizes the “present” with little regard for that which is “yet to come.” An Icelandic friend, who has a lot of spiritual insight, firmly believes that the church in Iceland must recover its belief in and teaching on the second coming of the Lord, because she believes He is coming soon. I ask myself, “Do I really believe that Christ is coming back and that it may be today?” or have I swallowed the line of the scoffers who either ridicule the idea, ignore it or re-interpret parousia to mean something other than what the early Christians believed it to mean? My answer may have a more profound impact on my life and ministry than I think.
Advent is an opportunity for spiritual preparation in anticipation of Christmas. Many Christians choose to incorporate seasons of prayer, fasting and repentance during this time. Along with remembering the incarnation and welcoming the Lord Jesus afresh through the abiding presence of the Spirit, may we use this time to hone our longing for the Lord’s parousia!
Come thou long expected Jesus, Born to set Thy people free,
From our fears and sins release us; Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation, Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation, Joy of every longing heart.
(Charles Wesley, 1744)
Warmly in Christ,
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
How close do you believe the return of Christ is? How often do you contemplate it?
What feelings does the thought of the Lord’s immanent return elicit in you?
How might a “longing for His appearing” express itself in your life?