In the old church calendar the weeks leading up to Christmas are known as the Advent Season. Advent is just a variation of the Latin word for ‘coming’. The idea of course, is that at this time we get ready to celebrate the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. In our family we have been using an Advent calendar this year. Each day we read different Bible verses that teach us a different aspect of who Jesus is and why he came.
However, the idea behind the Advent season was not simply to get us ready to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world that has already happened. It is also designed to make us consider whether we are ready for the ‘second coming’ when Jesus Christ will return in glory to judge the living and the dead.
Of course, the first coming of Jesus is the most amazing event in all history. God sent his Son into the world in the most humble of settings. This baby born in Bethlehem is Christ the Lord. This humble son of a carpenter from Nazareth came into the world to reveal God to us, but more than that he came to die in our place, taking the punishment that we deserve for our sin and so opening up the way to God. Finally he rose from the dead, defeating sin and death once and for all, and so offering us the hope of eternal life. Jesus’ first coming – that we remember each Christmas – is well worth celebrating!
However, Jesus’ second coming will be very different. No one will miss this arrival. It won’t be in humble circumstances in a backwater of the world. This time he will come in glory, with the angels and with a trumpet blast. On that day all sin and suffering will be done away with forever. On that day he will raise every person from the dead. On that day, he will divide all of humanity into two groups – some to everlasting life and some to face the wrath of God. Indeed, we await this coming advent with mixed emotions. The New Testament explains that the only reason Jesus has not yet returned is to give people time to get ready for him. Jesus was adamant that it was how we respond to him and what he did in his first coming that will decide how he responds to us at his second coming. If we trust in him and all he has done for us, then he will accept us and give us eternal life. However, if we ignore or reject him now, then he will do the same when he returns.
Often people do not like to focus on this second coming of Jesus. However, if we don’t, we fail to understand the reason for the first coming! In fact the reason that the message of Christmas is one of such joy is because we know that in his first coming Jesus has prepared us for his second. Instead of facing his second coming with fear and dread, the Christian longs for it with joy, because we know that instead of facing God’s wrath, as we deserve, we will stand forgiven on that great day.
So this Christmas do not just look back with joy at the arrival of the Son of God as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. Look back also at what he came to do – reveal God, die for our sins and defeat death. Trust in him, believe in him and commit to following him as your Lord. Only then will we be ready for the ‘Advent’ of Jesus that is to come.