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Posted: 12/11/2015
Advent and The Second Coming
"Blessed Is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"
Triumphal Entry
Triumphal Entry to Jerusalem: "Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord! Hosanna!"

We are well into Advent, the first season of the Christian year. It can be thought of as a season of anticipation, expectation, and remembrance. The word "Advent" comes from the Latin adventus, which means "coming."

In my earlier years in church, I probably didn't pay close enough attention, but I thought of Advent as a mainly a "waiting for Christmas, the birth of Christ." Only recently did I realize that was just part of reason for Advent, and not even the primary meaning. Early Christian views of Advent (6th century) tied the season to the coming of Christ; but, the coming was not the first coming in the Bethlehem manger. It was Christ's second coming, "in the clouds," as judge of the world. It wasn't until the Middle Ages that Advent was also directly linked to Christ's first coming at Christmas.For one resource on the history of Advent, see this post in:

But, whatever the aspects we consider in Advent, we know who it is we are expecting! Jesus, the Christ! And we can joyously proclaim:

"Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"This proclamation appears several times in scripture. Probably the most familiar relates to Jesus' Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, as in Matthew 21:9 and Luke 19:38 (the latter uses 'king'), and John 12:13. It is also found in the old testament, such as Psalms 118:26. Further uses (and similar) in Matt. 23:39, Mark 11:9, and Luke 13:35.

During Advent, who is this One we await? Who do we expect? In anticipation of Christmas, we are familiar with the story: the One coming is the babe in manger, the One angels sang about to the shepherds, the One visited by the wise sages. The One who grew up and taught, who healed, who died for us ... and who is resurrected. But, what about the One we await and prepare for in the Second Coming? Who is this?

While Googling for pictures of the Second Coming to use in this Reflection, I saw many showing the Jesus who is to come on horseback from a fiery background with sword waving. (On a white steed, of course.) I know there is scripture that might suggest such an image of Christ's coming, and I've heard TV preachers proclaim the fire and brimstone and judgment of what The Second Coming seems to be a terrifying event.

But, I have trouble believing that Jesus, the one who rode on the back of a donkey in the Triumphal Entry, has morphed over the centuries into some Rambo-type character. A warrior king coming to lay waste to this world ... the world he loved. No, I believe the One coming is the same Jesus we know from the gospels, the Jesus who left this world with nail-scarred hands. (The great Advent hymn Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending says it well: His Second Coming body will bear "the dear tokens of His passion.") (See hymn below.)

I believe the Jesus who will come won't be the often-pictured sword-waving warrior; but he will be the Jesus who, after Peter used a sword to sever the ear of one of his master's arresters, touched and healed the soldier's ear. No, the second coming will be as the first ... coming in the name of the loving Lord.

"Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"

I believe the coming Jesus will be the same one who comes today and comforts the hurting with an embrace and words like, "Take my yoke upon you ... my yoke is easy and my burden is light." The Jesus who will come is the same Jesus who now reaches a healing hand to the body lying in a tube-and-monitor-surrounded hospital bed and says "Arise." Take 'My Body' Or it will the the same Jesus who comes today to the suffering body, not this time with his healing hand, but with strong, but warm, arms to take his loved-one home.

I believe the coming Jesus will be the one who today does not force himself upon us. However, if we but open our hands to accept, he comes and enters full of love, comfort, and grace. And, in the Eucharist -- after we sing the words of the Sanctus, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest!" (Many make the sign of the cross at this proclamation.) -- this same Jesus who will come again in glory, descends from the altar to us at the rail. Comes near and says, "This is my body given for you." The second coming Jesus is the one who feeds his sheep.

"Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"

It would not be truthful, however, to present this coming Jesus without including what in scripture is obvious: that Jesus will come as a judge. There is also an aspect of terror at Christ's second coming. We cannot dwell only on the pleasant and agreeable. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (in selected passages)A merging of passages in Bonhoeffer's A Testament to Freedom (pp. 217-218), and a sermon, The Coming of Jesus Into Our Midst. says, "The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience. ... Christ will judge! It is truly serious. ... His judgment is eternal. ... His questions will be, 'what did we think of Christ's spirit?' and 'Have you lived a life of love toward God and humans, or have you lived for yourself?' Here there is no more subterfuge, no excuses, no beating around the bush; here, one's whole life lies open before the light of Christ."

Bonhoeffer also says that the one who will judge is no "hanging judge," but is one we know: Jesus, who understands life on this earth. "The Compassionate One judges, he who lived among tax collectors and sinners, who was tempted even as we are, who carried and endured in his own body our sufferings, our fears, our desires, who knows us and calls us by name. Christ judges: that means, grace is the judge, forgiveness, and love. Whoever clings to these is already acquitted." The second coming surely brings judgment. But, as Bonhoeffer says, that while we may be in terror, our heart may also experience joy when we realize the judge is Jesus. The judge is the one who came, and now comes and judges in the name of the Lord.

"Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us look back and remember that glorious, but humble, birth of Jesus. Let us also remember His life, death, and resurrection ... and our salvation. Let us recount how that same Jesus comes to us today. And, let us look forward to the time when Jesus will "come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and (whose) kingdom will have no end." (The Nicene Creed) This is the Jesus "who is, and who was, and who is to come."Revelation 1:8

Have a blessed Advent ... and a very merry Christmas!

"Blessed is He Who Comes in the Name of the Lord!"
Angels appear to shepherds
An Angel of God Announces the Birth of the Christ to the Shepherds,
then joined by a multitude of angels singing "Glory to God in the Highest!"
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds. Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
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Resources Related To this Reflection

Lo He Comes With Clouds Descending, by Lichfield Cathedral Choir of Lichfield, Staffordshire, England.
(Video includes hymn's lyrics by Charles Wesley.)
Sanctus, by choir of Saint Peter's Catholic Church, Colombia, SC.

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