Hoping in Advent

Every chapter of 1 Thessalonians ends with a reference to the Lord’s second coming.

…You turned to God from the idols to serve a living and true God and await His Son from the heavens… (1:9-10)

For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at His coming? Are not even you? (2:19)

So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (3:13)

…We who are living, who are left remaining unto the coming of the Lord, shall by no means precede those who have fallen asleep. (4:15)

The God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (5:23)

Paul was only in Thessalonica for three weeks, yet, to this young church he repeatedly stressed Christ’s second coming. This is important to note because it indicates that from the very beginning the Christian life is future oriented. That, despite the very real significance of our present experiences, they are anchored to an even more significant and certain future reality (Heb. 6:18-19). To this young, persecuted church Paul repeatedly directed their hope to the second coming of Christ.

Recollection and Expectation

As Christians we adopt a characteristic disposition in this world—expectation. For the true believer, hope is not a flimsy and unsubstantial concept, like the hope to be rich one day. It is a profound attitude that connects our everyday experiences to a very real eschatological reality. Christians believe in and are defined by a future event, not merely a past one.

And the certainty we harbor in the second coming of Christ is bolstered by the certainty of His first coming. We live between the landmarks of the ages—a manger and a mountain. With faith we look back to the manger in Bethlehem and with hope we look forward to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).

Recollection and expectation are not successive notes in the melody of the ages, one beginning only after the first ends. They are chords played simultaneously, creating a harmonic fullness that adds depth and texture to the present (think Debussy). Or to use another metaphor: they are like the full moon and resplendent sun, rising and setting on opposite horizons at the same time and in full view of each other, “with palpable currents of light passing back and forth.”[1] We live in the strange, pre-dawn light of a new and glorious morn and are reminded that we must reflect that light on earth. Advent reminds the church who she is—the lover in the Song of Songs who is both “as beautiful as the moon, as clear as the sun” (6:12).

Karl Barth linked the two comings of Christ in the life of the church:

The Church’s recollection is also its expectation.[2]

Our recollection fuels our expectation, because the decisive element in both events is the same. That decisive element is the person and work of Christ. Thus, the more we recall, muse on, and worship God for the first advent, the more we will actively anticipate, hope for, and live in light of the second advent. The crucial thing though is that this recollection would be activated.

Hans Küng said,

Memory can curb the excessive power of the factual, can divert the pressure of existing facts, can break through the wall of reality, of what has been effected, can get rid of the present and open the way to a better future. Merely as recollection, it can do this at least for brief moments. Really activated, it can do this permanently… [Christianity] is the activation of a dangerous and liberating memory.[3]

The Lord’s Table and Advent

As Christians around the world are celebrating Advent, I would like to propose that THE premier activity for recollecting Christ’s first coming and expecting His second, is the Lord’s table. Personal “devos” are good, topical Bible studies are helpful, but nothing should replace the centrality the Lord’s table should have in our celebration of Advent. The table is where this memory is most activated in light of the Lord’s coming. This meal connects Christ’s first coming for redemption with Christ second coming and, as the lines of a hymn reminds us, is “hope to fill our daily living.”

For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you declare the Lord’s death until He comes. (1 Cor. 11:26)



1. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead, 14
2. Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 127
3. Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, 121

16 thoughts on “Hoping in Advent

  1. I love this very much. I am very thankful that He is coming again and I long for the day that we can meet face to face. What a privilege to see these things, the more we read and understand, the more desperate it makes us. Amen for His second coming.


  2. Now there abide faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor.13:13)
    Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, with which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
    will recompense me in that day (the day of Christ´s second appearing), and not only me but also all those
    who have loved His appearing. (2 Tim.4:8)
    And over all these things put on love, which is the uniting bond of perfectness. (Col.3:14)


    • Harald, can you elaborate a little on how these verses spoke to you? I of course love the phrase, “love His appearing.” It should temper our study of eschatology. Believers should be interested in the end times, not for the supernatural concomitants, but for the Person whom these events will produce.


  3. THIS, is an epic quote:
    “We live between the landmarks of the ages- a manger and a mountain. With faith we look back to the manger in Bethlehem and with hope we look forward to the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).”


  4. 1 Cor. 11:23-26 clearly ties together these two comings. The table has the remembrance of Him (in His first coming) and is until He comes (second coming). I really like note 2 on 11:26 in the Recovery Version:
    “We should take the Lord’s supper unto the remembrance of Him by declaring His redeeming death without ceasing until He comes back to set up God’s kingdom (Matt. 26:29). By His first coming the Lord accomplished His death to carry out an all-inclusive redemption for the producing of the church. After His death He went away to receive the kingdom, and He will come again with the kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14; Luke 19:12). The period between His first and second comings is the church age. The church thus bridges the gap between the Lord’s first coming and His second coming and connects His death in the past with God’s kingdom in the future. Hence, to declare the Lord’s death until He comes may imply the declaring of the existence of the church for the bringing in of the kingdom. When we eat the Lord’s supper in this way, with a view to a continual remembrance of Him in His first and second comings, that supper becomes a satisfaction to Him in relation to the kingdom, God’s administration.”


  5. Pingback: What is the Lord’s Table? | life and building

  6. Ha! I love this post and was just about to post a comment with my favorite quote from it but then I saw that Chris beat me to the punch! 🙂 Advent is such a special time in our family and in my personal experience of Christ because of just what you said: the first coming points us to the second. My desire is to have the heart of Anna and Simeon, who were praying for and anticipating the coming of Christ with their whole being, and were rewarded by seeing the baby who would be their salvation. We may not see His appearing the second time before we die, as they did, but we can have that same heart and spirit today. And as you said, the Table is an excellent reminder on a more weekly basis as well.


    • Lol. Glad y’all both liked that. I love that portion in Luke as well. And I love that the Lord has people on the earth who don’t just know all the details about eschatology, but they are waiting for HIM! I aspire to be like that too which is why I’ve found the Lord’s table to be so key in my experience. Nothing stokes this desire more.


  7. “The more we recall, muse on, and worship God for the first advent, the more we will actively anticipate, hope for, and live in light of the second advent.”

    So good. When I first realized that advent spoke just as much (if not primarily) of Christ’s second coming, my view of Christmas began to soar!

    On a side note, I love that Paul can’t get through a chapter without mentioning the second coming.


    • Me too! I love how we can participate in the exact same expectation we read about in the Gospel narratives. When we read those stories in Matthew and Luke we should be able to identify with more than the truths that it presents. Although Jesus takes the leading role in this act, the supporting cast is incredibly important to heighten the drama.


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