Recently, I’ve been reading and studying a lot in the book of Revelation. Or rather, as it gives its own title, the Revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s been a focus of two of my classes this past semester and has been on the forefront of my mind (in no small part due to the two papers I am currently writing on aspects of the book). How we see the return of Jesus Christ and how we read what he showed to John has a dramatic impact on how we live and how we worship.
The previous paragraph seems like an odd way to begin a post entitled “Advent 1″. It would be much more effective to begin with one of the prophecies from Isaiah or one of the Psalms or the account of Gabriel’s visit to Mary and her song that follows. Why haven’t I chosen, then, to use those passages? Certainly, those would be effective ways to begin an entry for Advent, and they certainly have their place, but I’m afraid that in the middle of all of the wreaths, candles and preparations for Christmas, we forget why Revelation is just as important an Advent reading as Isaiah or Luke. The Christian calendar isn’t defined by the biggest shopping day of the year or the biggest day of the year for returns (because we packed on a few more pounds in the past 12 months than our families accounted for); it’s defined by preparation for the coming of Christ and celebration of his arrival.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
These aren’t just words that we sing to little baby Jesus who we’re waiting to place in the manger in our home nativity scenes. Even when we do well to use Advent as a time of preparation for the celebration of the coming of Christ at Christmas, we often forget that that’s not the only coming of Christ. We may confess with the Nicene Creed that “he shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” but in the real world, where theology really happens, we don’t let it change us.
Born thy people to deliver,
born a child, and yet a king,
born to reign in us for ever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
This Advent, don’t only pray that our hearts aren’t overcome by the rampant materialism in our society, especially at Christmastime. Don’t stop with the prayer that asks that the glory of the incarnation will make our hearts alive as we celebrate Advent and Christmas. Pray those things! But also pray that we will be faithful, like the saints and martyrs in heaven pictured in Revelation. Pray that our songs, like theirs, would be directed to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb. Pray that we might “find our rest”, as Charles Wesley wrote well, in Jesus – the one who was born in humility and will return in glory.