This is not really all about me, it’s some filler copy to help me design the website. This is something I published on Facebook last year. It sounds rather stern, doesn’t it? But it’s a quotation from one of the early Church Fathers, who liked to lay it on the line.
Too many Christians have the idea that Advent is about preparing for Christmas, so they happily spend it shopping and decorating, party-planning and party-attending, and singing Christmas carols sacred & profane.
This is to miss the point of Advent altogether. It is a time not for revelry but for sober and prayerful anticipation of the coming of the Lord — in triumph, yes, but also in judgment. This is what we should be preparing ourselves for. The first coming of the Lord, two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, foreshadows His second coming, which will come upon us like a thief in the night. Christmas is, of course, a joyful event and its commemoration certainly has its own dignity and importance, but it is not/was not an end in itself. It marks the beginning of a process that will be completed only at the second coming of the Lord — and this totality is what Advent prepares us for.
The twofold coming of Christ
Saint Cyril of Jerusalem reminds of this in his catechetical instruction, the second reading in the Office of Readings assigned for the First Sunday of Advent:
We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom.
In general, whatever relates to our Lord Jesus Christ has two aspects. There is a birth from God before the ages, and a birth from a virgin at the fullness of time. There is a hidden coming, like that of rain on fleece, and a coming before all eyes, still in the future.
At the first coming he was wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger. At his second coming he will be clothed in light as in a garment. In the first coming he endured the cross, despising the shame; in the second coming he will be in glory, escorted by an army of angels.
We look then beyond the first coming and await the second. At the first coming we said: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. At the second we shall say it again; we shall go out with the angels to meet the Lord and cry out in adoration: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
The Saviour will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. At his own judgement he was silent; then he will address those who committed the outrages against him when they crucified him and will remind them: You did these things, and I was silent.
His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity.
The prophet Malachi speaks of the two comings. And the Lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple: that is one coming.
Again he says of another coming: Look, the Lord almighty will come, and who will endure the day of his entry, or who will stand in his sight? Because he comes like a refiner’s fire, a fuller’s herb, and he will sit refining and cleansing.
These two comings are also referred to by Paul in writing to Titus: The grace of God the Saviour has appeared to all men, instructing us to put aside impiety and worldly desires and live temperately, uprightly, and religiously in this present age, waiting for the joyful hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Notice how he speaks of a first coming for which he gives thanks, and a second, the one we still await.
That is why the faith we profess has been handed on to you in these words: He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Our Lord Jesus Christ will therefore come from heaven. He will come at the end of the world, in glory, at the last day. For there will be an end to this world, and the created world will be made new.
This, then, is what we prepare for — the two-fold coming of the Lord. If we allow ourselves to be consumed by worldly preparation and secular celebrations, we run the risk of losing sight of the true beauty and holiness of this season. Make way in the wilderness of this world, in the clatter and clutter of your busy lives, for His coming. Prepare your hearts.