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Advent: A Gaze in Two Directions

In the season of Advent*, we celebrate our Lord’s coming in the Incarnation and future return in glory.

Our celebration of Advent gazes in two directions. In the rear-facing direction, we imagine ourselves to be in the place of those saints who looked forward to the first appearing of the Messiah. A Middle English lyric captures the thrust of this anticipation:

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter
Thought he not too long.

The Old Testament saint looked forward to the day when the curse of Adam would be undone, when the winter of sin and death’s reign would give way to the spring of the Savior’s life and victory. The front-facing aspect to our celebration of Advent is embracing the place in which we stand as saints awaiting the return of our King. The seventeenth-century German hymn O Heiland reiss die Himmel auf describes our anticipation:

O Savior rend the heavens wide;
Come down, come down with mighty stride;
Unlock the gates, the doors break down;
Unbar the way to heaven’s crown.

When we celebrate Advent, we celebrate both the Incarnation of our Lord as well as his return in glory. We celebrate the Son becoming Man. And because the Son became Man, we have the guarantee that he will return, and at his return we mere men will be made, fully and finally, sons.

May this Advent season point you to Jesus in his Incarnation and fill you with the hope of his return.

 

* The word advent comes from the Latin adventus, which is the translation of the Greek word parousia. Typically, the New Testament uses the word parousia to refer to Jesus’ coming again in glory. For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, the apostle Paul says: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming (parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ.”