Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent, Much More than the Manger

Believe it or not, my family believes I'm a Scrooge.  To be honest so much of the materialistic focus of Christmas makes me irritable BUT I love the mystery of the Advent Season.  It seems the invisible layer separating heaven and earth becomes a little thinner during the Christmas season.

Every year I learn more and more about the richness of the Christmas season. Last year I worked my way through Shawn Small's book "Via Advent" which added so much depth to my Advent meditation.  I'm pondering visiting Shawn's book again this Christmas.

This Advent season has also been full of new learnings. A few weeks ago I was chatting with a Catholic youth director friend. I was curious about some of his church's advent traditions. We began to discuss how Advent is a celebration of the "3 comings of Christ".

Of course the first coming is what we celebrate in the manger. And I knew about a second coming in the future but what is this third coming? Personally I had never thought about Advent being much more than meditating on and celebrating the birth of baby Jesus.

Below is an excerpt from a sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux. He was a very influential monk born in France in 1090 A.D. He was a noble who chose to abandon his life of privilege for the ministry.

Meditate on his words below as he describes the 3 comings of Christ as we reflect this Advent season.

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.

In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him.
In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced.
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.

For most, Christmas is simply about baby Jesus but a closer reflection gives the season greater richness.

You may want to reflect on the "3 comings" through this little prayer exercise.

First Coming - Prayer of Gratitude
"Jesus, thank you for leaving the comfort of heaven to clothe yourself in human flesh..."

Gal 4:4-5
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

Second Coming - Prayer of Awareness
"Jesus, remind me of the power of your presence in my life, for when I received you I became a son or daughter of God. Help me to recognize the mystery of "Christ in me the hope of glory"".

Col 1:27
27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Third Coming - Prayer of Longing
"Jesus, we long for the time when you return to make everything new. We live in a constant state of waiting"

Rev 21:4-5
4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
5 He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."


So as we think about the first coming of our Lord, let's not forget his second coming into our hearts. And may we eagerly look forward to when he comes again in glory.

Even so, Lord Jesus, Quickly Come!

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