We end where we began, but not exactly. The season of Advent walks us through the anticipation and celebration of the first Advent of Christ, and leaves us longing in expectation for the second Advent of Christ. Christ has come and hope for the nations has been found, and Christ will come again to make all things new.
See, Israel longed for the coming of Christ, and they waited many years. There are about 400 years between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew. The amount of time that Israel waited for Jesus reaches much further back than Malachi though. It reaches even further back than the prophecies of Christ in Isaiah and other texts of the Old Testament. In fact, the coming of Christ has been anticipated by man since the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:15 to be precise. But more than that, the coming of Christ has always been the Godhead’s plan for redemption. Never was there a time where the coming of Christ wasn’t God’s ‘plan A’.
The incarnation was not an afterthought for God to deal with the sinfulness of man. No, God was not reacting to man’s wickedness. This has been the beautiful plan of God from the beginning, that he would send his Son, the second person in the Triune Godhead, to take on flesh and walk with man. The great hymn writer Charles Wesley penned these words demonstrating the glory of Christ’s incarnation in his hymn ‘Hark! the Herald Angels Sing’,
“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel”
These words fittingly describe Christ’s estate that he took in the incarnation. He veiled himself in the flesh of man and became our Emmanuel, our ‘God with us’. Christ, in the flesh, the Deity incarnate, fulfilling prophecy and laying to rest Israel’s initial longing for a savior.
But unlike the anticipation that Israel felt in hoping for Christ’s first advent, we, the Church, hope for his return. We live in the middle between the incarnation and the Parousia, that is, the second coming of Christ. We celebrate Jesus stepping down from glory into flesh, and we anticipate his kingly return.
The lives we live take place in this foreign middle between Christ’s ascension and his return.
A middle where we already have Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Sins have been paid for. Death has been slain. There is mediation before the Father. The Spirit has descended. The church has been established and is being added to daily. There are joys upon joys to celebrate in what has been graciously lavished upon us in Christ.
But, this is a middle where we continue to wait. Christ has not come again just yet, but he will. So, we long for our sorrow to be ended, and sin to be no more; to see king Jesus face to face. We look toward the dead being raised and our joy being fulfilled in the presence of the Lord forever.
Let the reality of Christ’s soon return ease your aching flesh. Scripture tells us that Christ is coming again to save those who eagerly await him, and to gather his elect from all four corners of the earth. He is coming for his people, and their sufferings in this middle will not be wasted. Christ will return with a heavenly host and will be seen as marvelous and glorious amongst his saints. Though unrelenting sorrow might bring us present woe, know this: God keeps his promises. And he is coming.
On this final day of Advent, on the precipice of Christmastide, there is much to rejoice in, and much to anticipate. Jesus has come, and he is returning soon. Rejoice!
When thinking and preparing for this piece I kept going back to a recent sermon at Emmaus about the community in Christ. I thought it was a great depiction of how, being a part of the community in Christ, we are connected and have the ability to encourage each other through Him in anticipation. We are connected to Christ and he keeps us going for His glory and purpose. So to put this in a picture I thought of us believers in Christ as flowers, and Christ as a bee. We have a purpose through him to produce fruit which he shares with others through us. We cannot live a fruitful life without Him. We rise up out of the weeds to be connected through our shared anticipation of Christ coming back and collecting his flowers as a lovely bouquet.
Already, Not Yet
Christ the king has come! With him, the kingdom.
But not himself alone did he supply:
Kingdom promised, kingdom ready on high.
Eyes of angels strained to see his glory come
Flipped as a thorny crown: this word from
Heaven’s court–blessed are the meek–but why?
Body brought near by weakness, called to die.
God with us, helper sent, breathed out in sum.
Death, though damned: roams, ravaging remains.
Still more there is to see, more He will bring.
He sets ablaze the Fire that will burn fain.
Behold day ushered in by Lowborn King,
Kingdom complete, kingdom fulfilled, earth new:
Joy! See His face, Emmanuel the True!