Getting serious about Advent

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

It’s Advent. A penitential season, like Lent, according to the traditional liturgical cycle.

The word ‘Advent’ derives from the Latin word ‘adventus’, meaning ‘coming’, a translation of the Greek word ‘parousia’. ‘Parousia’ refers to the coming of Christ … his second coming, that is, not his first.

Even as we are preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Incarnation, the first coming to earth of the Messiah, this season also focuses on his second advent. The traditional preaching subjects during Advent are the Four Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.

Sometimes the church seems to shy away from talking about the Second Coming. I grew up in a strict church where talk of the ‘Rapture’ was quite common and various colourful End Times theories abounded. As I grew in my faith, I started to question some of the more lurid and extra-biblical aspects of this theology and my own theological bias tends towards amillennialism, although I think things will get pretty dark before God wraps up human history. Things are pretty dark already, what with the ongoing effects of the global pandemic, the chipping away of democracy and the worrying trends towards authoritarianism in the West, the terrible prospect of extinction of many species, war and famine and climate change and the refugee crisis, the disconcerting challenges of Artificial Intelligence and Big Tech, the existence of nuclear weapons …

Of course things weren’t exactly rosy in the first century, as the early Christians moved from being a Messianic sect within Judaism to being a multi-ethnic community scattered across the Roman Empire. Those Jewish and Greek believers lived in a hostile pagan culture and they faced multiple challenges: despotic Roman emperors, persecution, plagues, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions … yet their faith burns brightly across the centuries.

There will be one last generation before Christ returns – and it might well be ours. If you write non-fiction, how do you approach these weighty biblical themes in your writing? If you write fiction, how do you deal with the themes of death, loss and grief? Do the Four Last Things – Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell – ever feature in your writing, in one form or another?

Our secular culture has its own theories and narratives about how human history and the future of our planet will play out. As Christians, we have a grand, glorious, alternative narrative to offer, one that doesn’t shy away from sobering realities but which also offers ultimate hope.

Perhaps we can spend this Advent pondering on these things – and writing about them.

… ‘Suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty. But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. Malachi 3: 1-2 (NIV-UK)

“When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Luke 21: 28 (NIV-UK)

I am the administrator for the education and learning office of the United Reformed Church and a lay minister in the Church of England. I wrote a devotional for the anthology ‘Light for the Writer’s Soul’, published by Media Associates International, and my short story ‘Magnificat’ appears in the ACW Christmas Anthology ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’.

Post a Comment