Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and it is the beginning of the Christian calendar. Historically, Advent begins by celebrating the fact that Jesus will one day come to judge the living and the dead. This is why we sing O Come O Come Emmanuel. We are not in the first instance reenacting what it was like for Israel to wait for the Messiah to be born (though we certainly remember that). No, we are actually pleading with God to send the Messiah again. Of course we cannot separate these two advents. It is the first Advent, His birth in Bethlehem that gives us confidence to pray for His second Advent. While some Christians have been so infatuated with the second coming of Jesus they have essentially checked out of being useful and helpful in this world – the Bible makes it clear that the coming of Christ as our judge is reason for tireless preparation. Stay awake. Work hard. Learn more. Make beautiful things. Lift up the needy. So as you prepare for Christmas, think of all the decorations and food and gifts, as true signs and symbols of what your life is supposed to be constantly given to: preparing the world for the King. We are not pretending. That is exactly what we are doing every single day of our lives. To live for Christ is to live every single day getting everything ready for Him. We want our hearts ready for Him; we want our families ready for Him. We want our neighborhoods ready for Him; we want our cities and nations ready for Him. We want schools and hospitals and industrial plants and theaters and laboratories ready for Jesus. This means that all our activities ought to be done for Him, in obedience to Him, in excellence for Him, and for His praise and glory. Christ has come, and Christ will come again. This is the good news of Advent. It is our hope, our joy, our glory, our driving purpose in life. Christ has come; Christ is coming again.
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