Advent – Jesus Christ is coming soon!
Advent focuses on the direction and anticipation of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. His first coming brought salvation to us humans, but Advent is not only about the first coming, but also the second. Jesus will come again one day, but we don’t know the exact time. It happens unexpectedly. While his first coming brings hope for all people, his second coming brings separation. It separates those who belong to him from those who choose to be against him. Since followers of Jesus Christ do not know when he will return, they are to be ever vigilant. Therefore, there is a constant Advent time for them. They are to use this time to be vigilant, but also to tell as many people as possible the good news of Jesus Christ.
Christmas 1.0 as a starting point
Today, 27 November, marks the start of the Advent season. On a total of four Sundays we are in joyful anticipation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Advent is of Latin origin and means arrival. It is the arrival of Jesus Christ. It is the coming of God here on earth. It is the coming of the heavenly answer to the miserable situation of us humans here on earth. It is the coming of the hope of this world. The four Sundays of Advent finally culminate in Christmas Eve, the birthday of Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter whether Jesus was actually born on this day, it is more about the symbolism of this day. Christmas is the beginning of God’s work of redemption in this world. The birth of Jesus Christ is only important because it is followed by Easter. Through his death on the cross, Jesus conquers death. All who believe in him and believe that he is the Son of God will no longer die but have eternal life.
For today’s first Advent, the Evangelical Church in Germany gives, among other things, the biblical passage that we usually associate with Palm Sunday. Jesus Christ rides into Jerusalem as King on the foal of a donkey (Matthew 21:1–9). Just as the Israelites at that time rejoiced at the arrival of Jesus Christ, so should we. Characteristically, his appearance is written in the Bible. «Rejoice aloud, you people of Zion! Rejoice, you inhabitants of Jerusalem! Behold, your king comes to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble and rides on an ass – yes, on the foal of an ass, the boy of an ass» (Zechariah 9:9 NLB).
Advent heralds the end of the year for us. It is a fitting end to the calendar year. But it is quite different with the so-called church year. The church year does not end with the Christmas season, but begins with it. Today marks the beginning of the new church year. This changes the perspective. The year begins with Jesus Christ coming into this world. It begins with God doing something for us. It is not at the end of the year that he comes into play, but it begins with him. Without the earthly birth of Jesus Christ, which actually happened, everything else that comes is invalid.
Jesus» second coming is more than Christmas 2.0
In addition to the pericope order for Germany, there is also one for Switzerland. The Bible text from the Gospels, which is scheduled for today’s first Advent, points to a second aspect of Advent which we do not notice at first glance. It is the joyful expectation of the return of Jesus Christ at the end of time. Advent is therefore about both. Looking back and being thankful, but also looking forward to the second coming on this earth. «When the Son of Man returns, it will be as it was in the days of Noah. In the days before the Flood, people celebrated lavish feasts, orgies and weddings until Noah got into his ark. They did not realise what was happening until the flood came and washed them all away. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. Two men will work together in the field; one will be taken, the other left behind. Two women will grind flour in the mill; one will be taken along, the other left behind.» (Matthew 24:37–41 NLB). Admittedly, this text is anything but what we imagine a joyful Christmas message to be.
The second coming of Jesus Christ brings separation. It brings a separation of people because of their decision on the first coming of him. It is exciting that Jesus himself brings Noah into play here. Noah was a man who lived at the beginning of human history. He distinguished himself by being faithful to God in an environment that did not want to know anything about God. They enjoyed their lives and did not waste a moment in worshipping God and giving him the glory he deserved. Rather, they were preoccupied with themselves. Therefore, God decided to destroy the people by means of a flood. But since Noah stood by God, God chose him and his family to make a new start. So Noah built a ship and survived this flood with his family and various animals. While we struggle with this story, the existence of Noah and the truth of this story is beyond question for Jesus. This reference to Noah shows the fundamental evil of man, namely that he does not want to acknowledge God as God.
In addition to the reference to the times of Noah, there is a second image that characterises the time of the return of Jesus Christ. It is about the effect of the separation and also the actions of people on the followers of Jesus Christ. «Therefore, be ready, for you do not know when your Lord will return. Realise one thing: a householder who knows when the thief is coming is vigilant and does not allow his house to be broken into. You must be ready at all times. For the Son of Man will come when you least expect it». (Matthew 24:42–44 NLB). Actually, a thief is something negative. This is because he steals something from you and above all because he comes as a surprise. The image of the thief fits the second coming of Jesus Christ because if you don’t expect it, you will be surprised. But since followers of Jesus Christ are firmly convinced of his second coming, they should be alert and ready. Because if we knew that a thief was coming, we would be on guard all the time, not just for a few hours. «Think back to how you received and heard the message; hold fast to it and turn to me again! If you do not wake up, I will come upon you as unexpectedly and suddenly as a thief» (Revelation 3:3 NLB). It is important to remember and hold on to the message again and again. So Revelation 3:3 is an encouragement and invitation for followers.
The permanent Advent season
I come back to Noah again. When Jesus Christ comes to earth again, it will not only be as it was in Noah’s time, but followers are to emulate him as an example. Noah is in fact a worthwhile and fitting example for our time as well in three respects. «By faith, Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him of something that was not yet to be seen. His faith was the judgement on the unbelief of the rest of the world; but he became heir to the righteousness that comes from faith.» (Hebrews 11:7 NLB). First, Noah obeyed God. Noah built the ark at a time when it was not even raining. There was no indication outside of God’s promise that a huge flood would come and destroy everything. Therefore, everyone lived as usual, got married and celebrated feasts. But Noah believed God and is therefore called righteous (Genesis 6:9). This means that he was a person who lived according to God’s will. Secondly, it is clear from God’s drastic judgement towards people outside Noah’s family that ungodliness cannot stand before Him. This dramatic separation between Noah’s family and the other people will also happen one day in the future. Namely, when Jesus comes again, one will be saved in the field and the other will not. Thirdly, Noah drew attention to God in faith and tried to convince them to return to God. So the Bible says the following about God’s decision at that time. «Nor did he spare the former world – with the exception of Noah and the seven members of his family. Noah had warned the world of God’s righteous judgement. Then God destroyed the world by a mighty flood and all godless people perished in it». (2 Peter 2:5 NLB). As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to emulate Noah. This means firstly to be obedient to God. Secondly, to acknowledge and internalise that outside of Jesus Christ there is no way to stand before God. Thirdly, to warn the world of God’s judgement.
The time of the return of Jesus Christ is unknown. But we do know this, what Jesus himself says: «The message of the kingdom of God will be preached throughout the world so that all nations may hear it, and only then will the end come» (Matthew 24:14 NLB). As soon as all people have heard of the kingdom of God, Jesus will come again. And to the kingdom of God belong all who have a firm hope in him. They are not only citizens of this kingdom, but children of God. «But to all those who received him and believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.» (John 1:12 NLB). But the tension as a believer remains. For the kingdom of God is already visible in this world, but unfortunately not yet complete. For even people who have let Jesus Christ into their hearts experience difficulties. Therefore, the question arises, would it not be better if all followers immediately disappeared into heaven? Why does this not happen automatically? What sense does it make to stay on this earth? The meaning is deeply rooted in the essence of belonging to God’s people and thus to the promise made to the progenitor of the Israelites, to Abraham. «I will bless you and you shall be known throughout the world. I will make you a blessing to others». (Genesis 12:2 NLB). Followers of Jesus Christ also stand in this promise and this is on the one hand a promise but also a commission. The commission is expressed by Jesus Christ once again at the end of his time of activity here on earth. «Jesus came and said to his disciples: «All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go to all nations and make disciples of them. Baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to keep all the commandments that I have given you. And I assure you: I am with you always, to the end of the age» » (Matthew 28:18–20 NLB). It is a fourfold commission, go, make disciples, baptise and teach. This call to pursue this goal goes out to all followers of Jesus Christ. There are then four levels where this is to happen. 1. family & friends; 2. your workplace, school, village, club; 3. your country. Maybe in a different language, with different customs, but still very much the same and above all you can move there without a hurdle; 4. abroad among a foreign culture, with a foreign language. This requires a great effort of translation on the part of those who want to share the Good News there. When we hear the commission of Jesus Christ, we often think of field 4: foreign countries. But field 1 and 2 is the mission of every follower of Jesus Christ. Some have the task to go to field 3 and few are called to go abroad. But no one can talk himself out of the fact that he does not have a clear mission and that God has to show this in more detail. It is about telling the people the message of the angels at Christmas: «The angel reassured them. «Do not be afraid!» he said. «I bring good news for all people!» » (Luke 2:10 NLB). It is about promising people an abundant life, as Jesus Christ said: «But I have come to give them life in all its fullness». (John 10:10b NLB). However, seriousness should not be neglected. «For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it through his Son. Whoever believes in him is not condemned. But whoever does not believe in him is already condemned because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God» (John 3:16–18 NLB).
Finally, I would like to come back to the so-called Great Commission. Immediately before, the following is written by the disciples of Jesus Christ: «Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee to the mountain Jesus had told them about. When they saw him, they worshipped him – but some still doubted.» (Matthew 28:16–17 NLB). These eleven disciples here are the same ones to whom the commission is given in the following verses. They are the same ones who then set out into the whole world. They are the same ones who practically all without exception gave their lives for this message. They are the eleven disciples who, through the message of hope, were to give the starting signal to turn the whole earth upside down. They are the eleven disciples who saw Jesus and worshipped him. They are eleven disciples, some of whom doubted. But God’s kingdom is not what we would imagine it to be, because God uses even the weak. Jesus Christ’s commission to proclaim this good news of hope goes to all those who doubt and to those who have a firm confidence.
Possible questions for the small group
Read Bible text: Matthew 24:37–44; Matthew 28:16–20
- What is the meaning of Advent for you? What is your attitude towards the first and second coming of Jesus Christ?
- Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and came to reconcile the world to God? Are you ready for the second coming of Jesus Christ? What does this idea trigger in you?
- Is Noah a role model for you? What new things can you learn from him?
- Do you recognise the importance of the command in Matthew 28:18–20? What excuses do you often succumb to when it comes to fulfilling it? In which field would it be your turn to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ? How could you do this?
- Do you know doubts in your daily life of faith? What influence do they have on whether and how you tell about Jesus Christ?