Advent

Advent keeps coming up.

I was in mass on Sunday and it was the start of Advent. Not only were there readings devoted to the theme but also a sermon. Then as I was visiting an online journal (the Other Journal) I was confronted with it again. It just so happened to be doing a spread on Advent and the latest article was about Luke’s portrayal of the immaculate conception.

But just as Advent keeps coming up I keep finding myself frustrated by the treatments it receives.

For instance, one of the readings at mass was the parable where the master of the house goes on a journey, and we’re left to run the house in his absence. The point is that we have to be ready, for we never know when the master will return/come (Advent). There is an unexpectedness attached to the coming, a “we don’t know when” that is meant to create in us a constant vigilance.

But is it not wrong to associate this second coming, this return, with the Advent we are celebrating now, that is, the birth of Jesus Christ?

In regards to this first Advent there is little unexpectedness. Sure, Mary did not expect to be told that she was to have a child, but once she was told there was little to be ready for. Sure, she had to prepare as any expecting mother must, but she knew perfectly well what to expect, that in roughly 9 months the child would come, and that this child was destined to be the king of all creation. Gabriel made that perfectly clear.

So what troubles me is the conflation of these two Advents, the birth and the return, the first coming and the second. The article I mentioned did this as well. It tried to argue that Mary had no idea what to expect. But that’s simply not true. With the first coming what couldn’t be clearer is that Mary was expecting, that she knew what to expect and was ready for it. She knew when it was coming and what was coming.

With the second coming however, while the ‘what’ may be clear (it is still the son of man who will come), the ‘when’ is a mystery. There is indeed an unexpectedness to this second Advent. (Indeed, if we were to associate the second coming with an event it would be less with the coming of Jesus at birth and more with the coming of Gabriel at conception. It is not Christ’s coming from the womb but into the womb that calls for constant vigilance.)

I feel this radically changes our posture toward these events, the first and second coming, and that this is lost when these two Advents are conflated. But please, happy to hear otherwise.

It seems a right association to me.

Yes but it still maybe unexpected to the next Mother and Matron of Christ. Is she even Christian? I have not heard any specific said about the race or ethnicity of the Second Coming. The Second Coming of Christ may as well be a black man this time. Nobody knows who He will become, and reappear/resurrect as. All that matters is His spirit.

Good point.

I think you’ve got it. O:)

Let me clarify and correct what I tried to express before by relating it to creation. To Genesis 1.

In the beginning God calls. The word of God comes and says “Let there be light.” The first Advent. We never know when we will be called or what we will be called to bring into the world, just as Mary had no idea that Gabriel would call her to bear a son. But we must be ready for the call nonetheless. Ready to answer it.

And then there was light. The second Advent when the call is answered and Christ is born. But the coming of Christ was expected. There was nothing unexpected about this second Advent but rather it was latent in the first. We knew what was coming and that it was coming. Our work is less a readiness to hear the call and more a preparation. It is less about vigilance and more about bringing into the world what we were called to bring into the world.

In the first case something from the outside comes in. A call. In the second case something from the inside comes out. A child. The directionality is important to understanding our posture toward these Advents.

Finally however there is the second coming of Christ. The return of the light that was already called for and that was already brought into the world. He will judge the living and the dead, so they say. He will come to collect what we were called to bring into the world so that he can hand it over to the Father.

This third Advent comes just as unexpectedly as the first and so is easy to confuse with the first (as I did before). But it is not the first. In the first advent we are called. In the third Advent we are expected to have fulfilled the call. We must be ready in the sense that our house must be in order. We must not only have ordered it but maintained its order.

We must not let what is called for, and what we bring into the world in our answering of the call, die.

So here we have the three Advents and our posture towards them. With the first we must be ready for the call, which can come at any time and call for God knows what. With the second we must prepare to bring what was called for into the world, a posture that is full of expectation. With the third we must have fulfilled the call and kept alive what was called for. We must be ready with a well ordered house, which is what the master called for as he departed on his journey.

So what’s the problem then?

It’s what I tried to express in my OP. That these Advents, and our posture toward them, are conflated. We need to distinguish them and be very clear about what our role entails in respect to each.