From the Vicar: Joyful Anticipation of the advent of our Lord
The Advent season during this month of December is the time of lead-up to Christmas. It is a season of preparation, joyful anticipation, and of getting ready for Christmas, when we remember and celebrate the first coming or arrival of the incarnate Son of God into the world at the birth of Jesus.
The word “Advent” is from the Latin word adventus, with the meaning of “coming” or “arrival.” Adventus is a translation of the Greek word parousia, which means “presence” or “presence after an absence,” therefore it also encapsulates the ideas of “coming” or “arrival.”
Advent is a season of preparation: we prepare ourselves for the commemoration and celebration of Jesus’ first arrival or coming at Christmas, when Immanuel, ‘God with us,’ was born. But we also prepare ourselves for the second arrival or coming of Christ at the end of history.
As Christians at Advent we look back and we look forward. We look back on the events of Christmas and how the long wait of the Old Testament people of God was finally over when Jesus was born. And we look forward to the future visible return of Jesus, anticipating the time when the patient endurance and waiting of the people of God will finally be over. For Jesus will ‘come again’ to raise the dead, to establish justice at the last judgement, to bring renewal to all of creation, and to bring God’s kingdom into its fullness here on earth.
As Justin Holcomb explains, “Advent symbolizes the present situation of the church in these ‘last days’ (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2), as God’s people wait for the return of Christ in glory to consummate his eternal kingdom. The church is in a similar situation to Israel at the end of the Old Testament: in exile, waiting and hoping in prayerful expectation for the coming of the Messiah. Israel looked back to God’s past gracious actions on their behalf in leading them out of Egypt in the Exodus, and on this basis they called for God once again to act for them. In the same way, the church, during Advent, looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom when he returns for his people. In this light, the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” perfectly represents the church’s cry during the Advent season:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appears.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
While Israel would have sung the song in expectation of Christ’s first coming, the church now sings the song in commemoration of that first coming and in expectation of the second coming in the future.”
This Advent as we sing this hymn, read the Scriptures of Old Testament promise and prophecies of a Messiah and of New Testament hopes of the second coming of Jesus, and as we worship Jesus together, let us look back and look forward to ready ourselves for Christ’s return. Let us make ourselves ready to meet with Jesus face to face, to anticipate afresh the arrival of Jesus in power and glory and honour.
Rev. Andrew Barlow
Vicar of Holy Trinity Avalon Church