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Between the Two Advents


The Advent season is here, with all its carols and newly published devotional books. There is that usual bustle and stirring in the air, full of excitement and anticipation as we wait for Christmas Day, but something else is also in the air besides the smell of gingerbread and peppermint. There is a tension surrounding Advent, and maybe you feel that tension too. This time of year, there seems to be a suspenseful pause, as if the world is holding its breath in wait. Along with the holiday cheer, my spirit is antsy, as if I'm looking... longing... waiting...

The women at our church have just wrapped up a study of the book of Titus. Verse by verse, we have dug our way down into the belly of the text - asking questions, looking up words we don’t understand, discussing the applications, and journaling our thoughts and prayers. It's been a semester I will cherish for the rest of my life. One section in particular in the book of Titus has settled in my heart and made its home there. In chapter two, Paul writes:

 

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (emphasis mine)

 

Christmas is all about the first coming of Christ. The word Advent means "coming," or "arrival." This is the season where we celebrate the grace of God appearing in human flesh: Emmanuel, God with us. He appeared - not with pomp or in blazing glory - but as a helpless infant, born in blood and water, to poor parents in a humble stable that smelled of hay and manure. We observe this beautiful event in history - usually with all the merriment of a child tasting their first Christmas cookie! Yet there is a second Advent; a second coming of Christ; a second appearing that we wait for. This Advent is the one that all creation groans for (Romans 8:18-25). Charles Spurgeon commented on Titus 2:11-14, “See, then, where we are: we are compassed about, behind and before, with the appearings of our Lord. Behind us is our trust; before us is our hope. Behind us is the Son of God in humiliation; before us is the great God our Saviour in his glory. To use an ecclesiastical term, we stand between two Epiphanies: the first is the manifestation of the Son of God in human flesh in dishonour and weakness; the second is the manifestation of the same Son of God in all his power and glory. In what a position, then, do the saints stand! They have an era all to themselves which begins and ends with the Lord’s appearing.” We live between these two Advents. Day in and day out, through every month on the calendar, we live in an era of "then" and "not yet." Grace appeared 2,000 years ago in a dirty manger, and brought salvation for all who would believe. Glory will will soon appear when Christ returns with all the heavenly armies to rule and to reign. We stand between these two appearings, between grace and glory. Our whole lives are spent in the space in the middle of the two comings of Christ Jesus, in a place all our own where we celebrate Christs' humble descent to earth, as we also wait with eager longing for His triumphant return. What joyous ground on which we stand!

In light of this, how then should I live? That was one of the questions we asked ourselves in my mid-week small group. In light of Christ's first appearing and His soon-coming second appearing, how should my life look?

Paul gives us the answer. In Titus he tells us that grace appeared for two reasons:

1) to bring salvation, and

2) to teach us how to live in a way that does not dishonor Christ.


God's grace coming to earth, in the form of a baby, is the reason we celebrate the first Advent, and our lives should echo the songs of joy that began on that holy night. While we wait for the second Advent, we spread the good news of the first while we live a life that adorns the goodness we have received because of Christ's first appearance in Bethlehem. Those who are His are marked by godliness and good works that are fueled by the grace that saved them. By His Spirit, we are able to go from grace to more grace as we are slowly (but surely!) transformed into the glorious image of Jesus - the crescendo of His second appearing for which we wait.


As I sit in our family room gazing at our tree, warmed by the fire and the hot tea in my hand, my heart celebrates the first appearing of Christ. But equally as thrilling is the hope of what awaits; the anticipation and joy that we will have when He appears - not as an infant lowly on a silent night, but as the King of Kings in glorious light.




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