(This Communion meditation originally appeared on our website in December 2011. Advent is this coming Sunday, Dec. 2.)
By Robert F. Hull Jr.
Millions of Christians around the world celebrate this coming Sunday as the beginning of Advent, the first of four Sundays of preparation for the grand festival of light we know as Christmas. No matter how often we have observed Advent, for many of us the first Sunday still comes as a shock, for its focus is on the second coming of Jesus, not the first:
People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:26-28).
The beginning of Advent reminds us that this is not a season of waiting for the birth of Jesus. He has come. He has brought the light of salvation into the darkness of this world. Although he was rejected by many and crucified, he was raised by the power of God and now lives among us and within us. Best of all, he will come again, a prospect that fills us, not with terror and apprehension, but with hope and joy, knowing that our redemption from the limitations and uncertainties of this mortal life is drawing near.
Yes, in the weeks ahead we will remember and rehearse the story of the long centuries of expectation and preparation for the coming of the Son of David. We will accompany Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and join the song of the angels at the news of Jesus’ birth. But we will do so to remind ourselves that “salvation is nearer now than when we first believed,” and that we must “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11, 12).
How appropriate it is at the beginning of Advent to remember Paul’s words, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26, author’s emphasis).
Prayer: God of hope and promise, we come to this table with great joy, giving thanks for the one who died to redeem us from our past, who lives to secure us in the present, and who will come again to receive us into eternal life. Amen.
Robert F. Hull Jr. is Professor of New Testament, emeritus, at Emmanuel Christian Seminary at Milligan in Tennessee.