The First and Second Advent
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
In the Old Testament times the people of Israel would have sung similar words in expectation of Christ’s first coming. This hymn speaks about the Son of God appearing, the Emmanuel Who was promised by the prophet Isaiah in chapter 7 verse 14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. The New Testament church, that’s us, sings this beautiful hymn in preparation as well as commemoration of the birth of Christ, His first coming, but also in expectation of His second coming. He is the One Who has come, is coming, and will come. When He will come again we don’t know. No one knows the day or moment when the bridegroom shall appear. It’s a day on God’s calendar.
When the month of December approaches our thoughts automatically go to Christmas. Prior to Christmas we have Advent, the period spanning the four Sundays before Christmas beginning on Sunday 29th November and ending on 24th December. During these four weeks we focus on and remember the One Who came to save, and the One Who will return in glory. It is a time of preparation for His first coming, and at the same time it’s a time of waiting and preparing for the joy and hope of His second coming when He will judge all people.
As we do during our whole life these Advent weeks, in the context of approaching Christmas, are a time of reflection on God’s fulfilled promises. They are a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of the Son of Man, Jesus, at Christmas time, as well as the return of our Lord at His second coming. As one author writes so beautifully: “Advent is for adoring Jesus. It is a season of preparation for that special day when we mark Immanuel’s arrival – the coming of our eternal God in frail, human flesh. This is the greatest wonder of history’s many wonders…….. Advent is a way of lengthening the joy of Christmas”.
The better we prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh in Bethlehem, the more we will enjoy Christmas in a deep and meaningful way. Of course we cannot separate the historic events of Christmas, the crucifixion, His resurrection, His ascension and His return in glory. It is all part of God’s great plan of salvation and evidence of His love for sinners such as us.
Someone put it this way with a clever play of words and letters:
The CRADLE – the beginning of Christmas
The CROSS – the purpose of Christmas
The CROWN – the fulfilment of Christmas
Therefore we should be always preparing and striving to obtain our crown of glory and run the race as we are encouraged by the author of the letter to the Hebrews in chapter 12:1-2 where we read: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.
We need not only prepare for Christ’s first Advent but also for His second Advent. We prepare for Christmas, the coming of our Lord in the flesh but we must always be preparing for Christ’s second coming at the end of time. The word Advent is derived from the Latin word ‘Adventus’, which means the coming or arrival of an important person. In the context of our use of the word Advent, it also means the arrival of an important person, a very important person, our Saviour and Mediator.
May our lives during this period of Advent, as well as during our whole life, be an offering of praise to God while we live in joyful expectation of His second coming. Let us not overlook the need for repentance. Let us repent from our sinful pride and hatred and fighting for our own rights and wants, or wanting our own way.
Let us then be ever watchful;
May our lamps be bright and clear.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Your great day is drawing near.
During the festive season the world celebrates consumerism in its various forms. Even we need to be careful not to participate in the world’s activities of rushing around for last minute shopping etc. Let our preparation be a time of reflection, patient waiting, praying and also repenting. Yes, repenting! And I say again, let us not overlook the need for repentance. If there is pride, bitterness, feelings of revenge or even hatred in our heart, let’s get rid of it. The sixth commandment and the explanation of our Heidelberg Catechism very clearly show us what the consequences are. How can we prepare for the second Advent when there is continual sin in our heart? How can we cheerfully prepare when we are consumed by anger, envy or hatred? Again get rid of it! And rejoice, for He is coming. May that day come soon. It will be a day of great joy!
Sometimes I wonder if we are sufficiently aware that when we celebrate the Holy Supper that we receive at His table a foretaste of the abundant joy which He has promised. May we then look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb as the form for the Holy Supper celebration so beautifully describes it when it says that He will drink the wine new with us in the Kingdom of His Father. “Let us rejoice and give Him the glory, for the marriage feast of the Lamb is coming”.