22nd and Final Day of Advent
13“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
As I mentioned in the introduction, the Advent season once focused not on Jesus’ first coming but upon his return. Act One was the story of his birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Act Two will be about his return in triumph, his final victory over evil, and the establishment of his eternal reign in glory. Both are depicted by the prophets of old. Today’s text from Daniel focuses on that second act.
The contrast between the First and Second Advents couldn’t be more extreme. In the First Advent Jesus came in poverty and obscurity. A temporarily homeless couple was reduced to giving birth in a dark, cold, drafty, filthy, barn. They were attended by disinterested livestock and a few dumbfounded shepherds. Family and friends were far away. It was a scary night for that young maiden from Galilee, an event marked by blood, pain, weariness, and isolation. We have long romanticized that first Christmas. But for the actual participants it would have been a long and miserable night. When we smooth over all of the rawness of the first Christmas, there is a risk that we will miss the real miracle: the Eternal Son of God willingly—lovingly—entering into the slime and ooze of human existence in order to redeem an ungrateful and unlovely human race.
But in the Second Advent Jesus will come in glory, power, and heavenly splendor. Jesus, himself, described that day in this way in Matthew 24:30-31: 30“Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Instead of being tucked away in a lowly corner of an obscure Judean village, Jesus will return on the clouds in full view of all. Revelation 1:7a – “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him…” Instead of a few shepherds an army of angels will attend him. In Act One he came to redeem. In Act Two he comes to judge, to balance the scales of justice, to both punish and reward.
The two Advents share one important feature. In both, the Son of God comes to earth as a man. But what a difference in the humanity of those two comings! In Bethlehem, Jesus was born with all of the physical weakness of mortal flesh. That Second Adam, as Paul termed Christ Jesus, was born with a body that was little more than the faint reminder of the glorious body that God created for the first Adam.
But the human body that Jesus will inhabit upon his return will be a redeemed body designed for eternity. It will be the divine prototype of the kind of bodies that you and I will revel in for all of eternity. What Christ does for our immortal souls when we experience the New Birth he will do for our previously mortal flesh and blood after the resurrection.
Christmas Eve Reflection
On this Christmas Eve, offer to our Lord a prayer of thanksgiving for the unfathomable sacrifice of his incarnation, along with the prayer of the saints of every generation, “Even so, Come Lord Jesus!”