Wednesday 15 December 2021

The Coming of Our Lord

We hear a lot from John the Baptist in Advent. All the stories concerning him and his relationship with our Lord are presented to us. On one occasion, John sent his disciples to our Lord to ask, ‘Are you He who is to come, or are we to look for another?’ He did this not because he doubted in any way that his kinsman, Jesus, was the One. The question is more for the benefit of his own disciples. He had pointed out to them that here was the Lamb of God, and in case any doubted John’s gesture, he was sending them to explore for themselves. There were doubtless some among the little group who wanted John to be the Christ, and clung tenaciously to this view. However, this was an erroneous opinion, one which John, so just and honest, would have been quick to correct. So they went to Jesus and put their question to him, and received his answer. Are we to look for another? No, he says — we are not to look for another. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and furthermore, there is no name under Heaven or on earth, by which men may be saved.

Advent is about the coming of our Lord, and of his coming in several different senses. In the first part of this season, we have been made to ponder the strange, dark teachings of Jesus concerning the end times, the Judgement and the warning that, for all of us, the sands of time are running out. So we have some eschatological fireworks, interlinked with the dreary certainty of our mortality. But there is also, threaded through this, the bright and hopeful expectation of the coming of our Lord as a baby at Christmas. The Lord is coming and we are expected to jump up and run to meet him.

I think that many Christians aren’t really too sure what this means. How do we prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming, both at Christmas and at the End, ‘when he shall come again to judge the living and the dead.’ The thought that the secret thoughts and actions of all will be laid open can fill anyone with a measure of dread. Perhaps this is because we fear what others might think of us were they to be presented with the completed and unvarnished truth about us. I think it only fair to say that come the dreadful day, we are most likely to be worrying about our own sins, rather than anybody else’s. Besides, is this what the Lord wants? He wants us to look forward to his coming with joy. You know how it is when you are awaiting the arrival of a family member or dear friend. The eager anticipation, with which you have made the necessary (and some unnecessary ones too, no doubt) preparations. You just want the visit to be perfect and enjoyed by all. Surely it is the same for the coming of Christ. True, we may have forgotten some provisions, but we have made the room spruce and clean. The important thing is to make joyful preparations. For us, it is a matter of getting our lives sorted: the spring clean of the soul, the sincere effort to conform ourselves to our Lord’s teaching and will, employing the gifts with which he was endowed us, which sometimes we leave lying idle around. For now, we must fix our hearts on him with whom true joys are to be found, and not lose sight of the goal and the prize.

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