“We await our blessed hope, our great God & Savior Jesus Christ’s coming” (Titus 2:13)
The term “Advent” means “coming”. It is the season of the church year where we are reminded of the reality of Christ’s coming into our world. It’s a season not simply for preparing to remember and celebrate this glorious event at Christmas but also to remember that Our Lord’s coming also changes how we live now. You and I can now live in hope and expectation as part of our daily lives once the gospel gives us faith. Accordingly, when Martin Luther discussed Advent, he spoke of 3 different “comings” of Christ.
The 1st coming was indeed when Jesus was born as a child in a manger in Bethlehem. So Luther said the 1st Advent was when the eternal Son of God took on Human flesh and became a living part of our world. This past coming is what we celebrate at Christmas.
Luther then explained that as Christians, people who have God’s promise of forgiveness & eternal life, we also trust Jesus’ Word that He will come a 2nd time in the future. On the last day, at the end of time, Our Lord will return to bring His kingdom into visible glory. On that day, He will keep His promise to physically resurrect us to eternal life.
The 3rd coming which Luther wrote about has no particular time or place attached to it. In fact, Luther said, this coming actually happens throughout our lifetimes. In that sense, he said that is best really to not even put a number on it. Christ’s coming in this way seems odd to us too because it does not come with shinning stars, wise men, shepherds, or choirs of angels in the heavens. It doesn’t even come with brightly lit trees, eggnog, or with presents. In fact, this Advent is impossible to see at all without the Holy Spirit of God because it’s Christ coming into the present; the here & now of your life & mine. This coming happens to us only when Our Lord enters into our hearts through the hearing of the Gospel promise. God has chosen to dwell with you & I, His beloved children, whenever the “good news of great joy”, the proclaimation that sin and death – all the things that separate you & I from Our Creator – has been defeated in the cross & the resurrection of Jesus. This kind of Advent happens every time you hear God say to you: “I forgive you.”
What this means for you is it’s this last Advent that’s most important because it is the one that saves you personally. When God announces that Christ is for you, then forgiveness of sins, eternal life, & adoption as His own beloved child has happened. It is only this 3rd coming of Christ that makes the first two in any way take on any meaning. You have been given by God in Christ the greatest gift of all: hope. The hope of an unlimited future with God you now have as a Christian gives you the ability to live and engage a broken world in the light of God’s love. So for now, as you go forward into this Advent and Christmas season, you can give thanks to God for that miracle of grace & all the eternal promise & blessed hope it brings in Jesus Christ. So, sing joyfully & eat merrily, because today, Our Lord has truly come in a blessed way – for you.