Advent is here again! We often think of this season as a time of preparation. Not only are we busy preparing our homes for Christmas by decorating, baking, and planning presents and parties, we have also perhaps been taught that Advent is a time for us to prepare our hearts for Christmas. We do this by reflecting on Christ’s birth in Bethlehem and the profound gift of God the Son entering into flesh in order to save us from sin.
But Advent is actually about more than just preparing for Christmas. In fact, it’s more helpful to talk about the advents of Christ. Advent means “coming,” and while Jesus most certainly did come when He was born of the Virgin Mary, that’s not the only way our God has come or will come to us. Bernard of Clairvaux, a famous 13th century Cistercian monk and preacher, was perhaps the first Christian to speak of the three advents, or comings, of Christ.
The first advent is the one we usually think about during this season of the year. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Christ Jesus came into the world to bear our sin and be our savior, and that meant that he experienced the entire life of a human being. He developed as a baby in the womb just as we have, was born of a woman just as we are, grew into maturity just as we do, and died just as we will. He came to take on all of it, so that He could redeem us from the curse of sin. Because Christ came to this earth 2,000 years ago, we sing with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!” (Luke 2:14).
The second advent of Jesus is also not unfamiliar to us, although perhaps we don’t think about it as often. After His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise that He will return to this earth to judge all flesh, to raise up the dead from their graves, and to bring about the consummation of His kingdom and His victory. The Advent season certainly has this emphasis as well. We aren’t only thinking about Christmas, we’re also thinking about Jesus’ second coming, when the devil and His angels will finally be cast into the lake of fire and sin and death with be no more.
The third advent of Jesus is the hidden coming of Jesus. But it is perhaps the most important one to emphasize during this season of the church year, because it’s the advent that connects the first and second comings of Jesus together. We don’t have to go back to Bethlehem to the year of Christ’s birth to know that our Lord has come to us. Nor do we have to wait for the future when Jesus appears again the clouds. Jesus is coming to us, to His holy and precious bride the church, right now. In John 14:23 Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
Jesus comes to us today in His Word just as much as He came to the world in the manger and as much as He will come on the cloud. We cannot see Him, but He is there. Not only during Advent and Christmas, but all year round, we greet our King as He comes among us to forgive our sins and renew and strengthen us by His Holy Spirit. We are brought along on the great procession of Jesus from His birth to His second coming, as He marches through the world through His Word that goes forth to bring faith wherever it goes.
I pray that this Advent season may be a joy to you as you remember and celebrate the three comings of Jesus. Our Lord has come to die for you. He comes to give you faith. He will come again to make all things new. Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! God bless you and your family with a joyful Advent and a Merry Christmas!