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Advent tells of Jesus’ 3 comings

Based on Jer 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12- 4:2; Gospel of Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Waiting, praying, watching, longing, hoping, expecting – it’s Advent.

It’s the First Sunday of Advent, the start of the new church year. “Advent” means coming. Advent’s four Sundays before Christmas prepare us for Jesus’ first coming as a baby in Bethlehem.

But, Advent is more than waiting for Baby Jesus or tracking the days until Christmas. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus talks about his second coming and how the heavens will be in total disorder. The nations of the earth will be in panic and fearful. Jesus is not trying to frighten us when he will come in power and glory. He wants us to be prepared – to stand tall and raise our heads because he wants us home in heaven with him.

In the first reading, Jeremiah urged the people of Israel, in a turbulent time, to have hope for the future, that through a royal son of David the Chosen People would be restored to “what is right and just in the land.” Paul, in the reading from Thessalonians, encourages the Christians, as they wait for the Lord’s coming, to love and serve God and others as Jesus taught.

Advent actually tells us of Jesus’ three comings (past, present and future): Jesus coming as a baby in Bethlehem. Jesus coming to us daily in grace as we live the way he taught us by loving and serving God and neighbor. Jesus coming again in power and glory at the end of time.

Pope Benedict XVI, many years before he became pope, gave a series of Advent sermons as a young priest in 1964 to German university students. He pointed out that we generally think of the Advent as existing “before Christ,” while we exist “after Christ.” However, he says:

“It is Advent. All our answers remain fragmentary. The first thing we have to accept is, ever and again, this reality of an enduring Advent. If we do that, we shall begin to realize that the borderline between ‘before Christ’ and ‘after Christ’ does not run through historical time, in an outward sense, and cannot be drawn on any map; it runs through our own hearts. Insofar as we are living on a basis of selfishness, of egoism, then even today we are ‘before Christ.’ But in this time of Advent, let us ask the Lord to grant that we may live less and less ‘before Christ,’  and certainly not ‘after Christ,’ but truly with Christ and in Christ: with him who is indeed Christ yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8) Amen.”  (“What it Means to Be a Christian,” by Joseph Ratzinger, Ignatius Press, 2006, page 40).

As Christians, by prayer and virtue, we should be ready to greet Jesus whenever he calls us to himself – be it at the end of our earthly lives or at the end of time.