The Three Comings of Jesus

adventOne way of really enriching our Advent journey is to keep in mind the three comings of Jesus. Jesus was born into our past history. Jesus comes to us now in a variety of ways. Jesus promised that he will come again in glory, at the end of time.

The Incarnation: Jesus has come. This is not the coming we await. The first coming of Jesus has already happened. Our preparation to celebrate his birth is the occasion for our deeper reflection. On the first level, it is so important that we really let ourselves experience the power of the Incarnation: God is with us. That God became one of us means that “human” is one of the ways God can be. The deeper we contemplate this mystery, the more we enter into the grace of “God with us.” The more we let ourselves be touched by this mystery, the more we see the connection between Christmas and Easter: all of this is “for me” – for my salvation – to free me from the power of sin and death.

My Life Now: Jesus comes to me. When we open our hearts and our mouths and plead, “Come, O Lord,” we are most directly experiencing our desire for the Lord to come to us and touch us with the grace of salvation – that we might live it with greater freedom and peace. Jesus is present whenever we need him to be present: actually, whenever we turn to him – even with empty hands. Jesus is alive and active in us when we read God’s Word and let it into our hearts. Jesus promised to be present with us whenever two or three are gathered together in his name. And, we know Jesus comes to us whenever our sacrifices and our sufferings unite us with his own mission. Advent is a special time to experience our longing for the presence of Jesus with us now – in all the places we need him most.

Our Future: Jesus comes again, in glory. One of the most transforming graces of Advent is given to us as our longing deepens. The more grateful we become for how God saved us in Jesus, the more deeply we enter into the mystery of how Jesus is with us now. The closer we come to experiencing joy at how our Lord, Jesus Christ came into our world, faithful to God and faithful to our life journey in the flesh, the closer we come to experiencing the mystery of salvation in our everyday lives. And, as our longing is filled with the utter fullness of God’s gift to us, we begin to long with the ultimate freedom: we long to be with him in God. We live more at home in this world because our God made a home in this world. But the whole story draws us to a complete picture of who we are and where we belong. Then our prayer begins to change, in our hearts and on our lips. We still are singing, “Come, Lord, Jesus!” but our song is transformed into the free and complete song of the lover: “Come, and take me with you.” Now we watch for the day, hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours when Christ will come again in his glory. (Preface 1 of Advent)

Advent Readings: An Overview The First Sunday of Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year. This year we will again use the readings from Cycle B of the Lectionary for Mass. Most folks are familiar with the basic structure of the three-year Sunday Lectionary, in which the Gospel readings are taken mostly from Matthew in Year A, from Mark in Year B, and from Luke in Year C. But many Christians, even regular church-goers, may not realize that the readings for the four Sundays of Advent also follow a regular pattern.

On the First Sunday of Advent each year, we hear some of Jesus’ teachings about the “End Times.” In each case, the text is taken from a passage that comes from the end of Gospels when Jesus seems to be speaking about apocalyptic events. The Second and Third Sundays of Advent focus on the preaching of John the Baptist. The emphasis is on the role of John as Herald. Finally, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent the Gospel reading relates to some of the events that immediately preceded Jesus’ birth, including Joseph’s dreams (Year A: Matt 1:18-24), the Annunciation by the angel Gabriel (Year B: Luke 1:26-38), and the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Year C: Luke 1:39-45).

The first readings throughout the Advent Season contain various passages from the prophetic books of the Old Testament that Christians interpret as prophecies about the coming of the Messiah or the Messianic age. A pattern cannot be described as easily for the second readings, but prayerful reflection often reveals a pattern of love, joy, peace, and submission of one’s will to God.

The Gospel readings of the four Sundays of Advent come to us in reverse chronology. We start with the end of time. We continue to the period when Jesus was an adult. We end in the days before his birth. Like a funnel, Advent opens with a giant theme, the grandness of Christ the King, and it ends with a specific one, the child lying in a Bethlehem manger.

May Advent be a time of reflection of the coming of Christ in your life, the life of your family, and our community of believers. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phi 4:4)

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