The early part of Advent examines the eschaton. The journey of the church is progressing ever closer to the end time, but the journey is still in process. So the first part of Advent is like that zooming camera lens, for it brings something distant up close so that we can examine it carefully, enabling us to view it as fully as we are capable of in this time of our lives. But why would we want to look at it at all?
We live in the time between. The end time, eschaton, began with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. That birth of the God-man was the first coming of the Word of God. We live between that time and the second coming of the Word of God, the final consummation of all that Sacred Scripture has promised, taught, and prophesied about fulfillment in the kingdom of God.
The Old Testament looks to the distant future, sort of like that zoom lens, in preparation for the fullness of time when God will visit God’s people. He will teach them a new way to live and will protect them and watch over them, in other words, the time of the New Covenant. The prophet Zechariah wrote, When that Day comes, living waters will issue from Jerusalem, half towards the eastern sea, half towards the western sea; they will flow summer and winter. Then Yahweh will become king of the whole world. (JB14:8-9a) For Zechariah, living waters meant ongoing life in an agricultural society. For us, living waters means the water of life flowing from Jesus Christ. The Old Testament people of God were waiting in anticipation of the coming of the reign of God.
For the New Testament people of God, the reign of God has been established in the Incarnation: the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the promised one, the Messiah, the righteous one, God with us. And now, we live in that long period of time between. We would not want to go back to the Old Testament times of longing, and most Christians are not eagerly awaiting the fulfillment in the Second Coming of Christ. Yet the New Testament is filled with longing for this. Maranatha-come Lord Jesus. For most of the early history of the church, these first Christians were anticipating the Second Coming of Jesus. They longed for that coming, for the fulfillment. They wanted God’s kingdom to be completely and everlastingly established, and for this they were willing to suffer persecution and hardship.
Why is it important for us to look at this Second Coming now, especially if we really do not anticipate it to be soon, at least in our life time? When we first knew Jesus, not head knowledge, but really knew him, a flood of grace welled up in us. We were exhilarated, on top of the mountain. But lives go on, and that first fervor tends to wane, and we get busy with other things. Our spiritual lives can become like a river flowing. The river starts at a tiny source and grows into a mighty force. Baptism is our tiny source and our spiritual river ends in fulfillment in the kingdom of Christ. But the river is not clean - it gets filled with flotsam, debris that can clog up the river and impede its progress.
By taking the time to examine our spiritual rivers through the camera lens of Advent, perhaps we will be able to more clearly see the flotsam, those things that get in the way of our spiritual river flowing more fully into Jesus Christ. Our theme too is marantha! Come Lord Jesus, come! But we are not waiting for the birth of the Messiah for that has already happened in history. Instead, we are waiting for the more perfect coming of the Lord Jesus in our spiritual lives. Where is the flotsam in your life? In other words, what is preventing the living water that has its source in your baptism from flowing freely and completely? During the days of Advent, take some time out of your hectic schedules, just a little each day, and ask the Lord Jesus to come into your life more fully. Ask the Lord Jesus to rid your spiritual river of the flotsam that clogs your spiritual life. Ask the Lord Jesus to come. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus, come!
Father Al Jewson