Yesterday marked the beginning of the second week of Advent. Different churches mark the weeks differently, some leaning into themes like hope and love but in different orders, others revisiting key moments in the biblical story. I like the approach that roots the time in expectation not just of the Christmas season but of the second coming of Christ, the event that will bring this part of the biblical story to an end.
I finally got around to reading Matthew Lee Anderson’s first Advent “newsletter” yesterday morning. Written at the beginning of the season, Anderson had this to say:
We marked the beginning of Advent today, and as happens, we begin with the end—by turning our hearts and minds to the return of the Lord Jesus, so that we might be prepared for the celebration of his Incarnation. It is an odd thing to begin by looking beyond Christmas; the Christian story, after all, seems like it begins in a manger. Only it doesn’t: it begins instead at the beginning, when the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and when all things were made through Him, without whom nothing was made that has been made. Christmas happens in the middle of an ongoing narrative of Christ’s redemption—a narrative that has its conclusion at the end of all things. By seeing Christmas in light of the end, we also see it in light of the beginning—and so see it as it truly and properly is.
We will spend the next few weeks deliberately and intentionally waiting for the return of the Lord. The season of expectant hope is one in which the anxiety about all our projects and plans can be expunged with a peace that has a truer, better anxiety built in: will we be ready for that return? Whether we shall save enough for retirement matters little next to the question of whether the Son of Man shall find faith on the earth.
I really like that phrase, “a truer, better anxiety.” You definitely get a sense of it when reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ return. Without that second coming, the first coming (and subsequent descension and double-ascension), as important as it is, would be incomplete.
It is good and necessary, then, to “look beyond Christmas” even as we look towards it. It’s not something we do all that well or all that often, really; it’s a horizon recedes too quickly for us. I’m grateful for a season of the year that points us intentionally in that direction.
You can subscribe to Matthew Lee Anderson’s newsletter (or at least find out more about it) here.
(image from worshiphousemedia.com)