Advent - Second Time Around
Advent is a time when the church looks back to the first coming of Christ, and prepares herself for the feast - the celebration - of Christ’s birth at Christmas. But it’s also a time to look forward to the second coming, the second advent of Christ, and his return.
Those two comings are polar opposites: the first in humility, the second in glory. The first unnoticed, the second visible to the eyes of all. The first to save, the second to save and to judge.
And yet, if polar opposites, the doctrines of Christ’s two comings both have the power to encourage our hearts, and stimulate us to live lives pleasing to God. His first coming tells us God loves us so much that he sent his own Son for us. It tells us that at just the right moment God sent his Son to redeem us. It tells us there is a message - a gospel - of good news and peace for all people. And it tells us that to follow in Christ’s footsteps does not consist in promoting oneself but humbling oneself.
But while the doctrine of Christ's second coming is frequently a cause for debate and division among Christians, that is not how the New Testament writers saw it! It too has the power to encourage and spur us on to greater sanctification.
James tells us that the fact of Christ’s return should encourage us to be patient. Patient with one another when we’re tempted to grumble against each other and patient and steadfast in suffering. Because, if the outcome is certain (and it is) we can… be patient! (James 5:7-11).
Paul says that the fact of Christ’s return is a reason for sober, thoughtful, self-reflective living. Others will be taken by surprise by the Lord’s return, but that doesn’t need to include us. As a result, as we allow God to sanctify us and make us more like Jesus, we can know he will both prepare us and keep us until Christ returns (1 Thess 5:1-8, 23-24; 1 Cor 1:7-8).
But it’s not just encouragement for godly living now - it’s also our hope for now. A present hope anchored in the certain future to come. It’s our assurance that all will be well, that God will finally transform us to be like Christ (Phil 3:20). No wonder Paul calls Jesus’ return and revelation in glory our ‘blessed’ hope ( Titus 2:13).
And there’s nothing divisive or debatable about that.
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