When Jesus Christ came for the first time, as a powerless baby, it seemed as if the whole world was asleep. Only a few anticipated His birth. Many more could have known about His gentle arrival if the leaders of faith had only paid attention. How was it possible that a group of Wise Men from the East knew that the King of Kings was about to be born while the leaders of the Jewish religious establishment didn’t have a clue?
We are now living in the anticipation of the Second Advent. The Nicene Creed summarizes well one of the fundamental Christian beliefs: “I believe that He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.” As Jesus was returning to his Father, soon after His resurrection, the angels promised his followers: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” Acts 1:11. But this time no one will be able to pretend to have missed His Coming. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him” Revelation 1:7.
At this season of Advent, like at any other, the anticipation of the Second Coming is mentioned, here and there, in the planned Scripture readings or sermons in our churches. But the enthusiasm seems to be missing because the urgency is not there. We have heard the message of Advent so many times, packaged gently into the message of Christmas, that we hardly notice it’s importance any more. And even when a pastor dares make a more serious attempt at reminding us that Jesus Christ is coming back again, this message always comes with an added disclaimer – “but we do not know the day or the hour” Matthew 24:36. We never miss pointing out that there are too many charlatans around busily putting forward one apocalyptic date after another, lest someone confuses us with one of those “date setting sects”.
No wonder the message of Advent sounds as a fairytale, or a not-obliging metaphor when we hardly dare declare it with the urgency it deserves. Could it be that the Advent call to “wake up from our slumber” (Romans 13:11) sounds to us more like the warning Lot gave his sons-in-law-to-be about the imminence of the destruction of Sodom? Lot appeared to them that “he was joking” Genesis 19:14. Could it be that we too have fallen for a self-soothing lullaby that “our master is taking a long time in coming” (Luke 12:45), hoping that if the Second Coming ever takes place in the literal wrappings of the Biblical announcements it would take many hundreds of years or more before it happens?
And yet, just as surely as Jesus surprised us the first time, He will surprise us the second time too. His second appearing will not look like a slow-motion evolution of the kingdom of this world into the Kingdom of our God. “This time”, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “it will be God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature.” (C.S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity) One day, as surely as this day exists, the history as we know it, with all our achievements and big plans for the future, will collapse in response to the sudden appearing of the presence, power and the glory of the coming King of Kings. One day “the rock cut out without a help of human hands” will struck the statue of human history, and become “a huge mountain” that will “fill the whole earth” Daniel 2:31-35.
True, we should not manipulate with the date setting. But dare we ask the question, nevertheless – what if that day is not far off? What if the rapidly concentrating distressful events, wars and rumors of wars, accumulating spiritual and political deceit, and other overwhelming global circumstances that radiate with hopelessness are the actual signs that, in the words of the Bob Dylan’s song “Slow Train Coming”, the day of the Lord’s appearing is just “up around the bend”? What if the day of “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) is shockingly more imminent than what we are ever ready to believe? What if Jesus’ invitation to “stand up and lift our heads, because our redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28) is meant for us living in the first quarter of the 21st century?
Let’s us not dare ignore those questions at this Advent season. Instead, with the awaken hearts let us declare: “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20.