Advent, a confluence of the past, present and future
Advent is a time of the year where the past, present and future meet as we wait for Jesus’ return.
During Advent, the church recalls the story of God’s people in the lead up to the birth of Jesus. It is a celebration of God’s steadfast love and God’s faithfulness to his creation. In it we remember the promises that God made to his people in the Old Testament and the excitement they had in witnessing their fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.
But it is not just about the past, the word ‘advent’ comes from adventus the Latin word used to translate the Greek word parousia. The
is the term theologians use to speak about the return of Jesus.
Advent, therefore, is not just about looking back to Jesus’ incarnation but looks forward to Jesus’ return when those things that were promised in his life, death and resurrection will be fulfilled.
It looks forward to a time when all the pain and suffering in the world will be wiped away; when wars will cease, and death will die.
St. Bernard of Clairvaux helpfully reminds us that in between these comings of Christ there is another coming; that in the present. He says in Sermo 5, In Adventu Domini, 1-3: Opera Omnia that,
“We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible…The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.”
Advent reminds us that Christ himself is present in the here and now with those who love Christ. Those who love him will keep his words and in doing so find their joy, their strength and their peace. For St. Bernard, this coming of Christ provided rest and consolation on the journey from the first advent to the last advent.
I don’t know about you, but for me, in the lead up to Christmas, this is of great encouragement when rest and strength are sorely needed!