Advent pulls in two directions.
It recalls a “first coming” but only to awaken our senses so that we will not miss the “second coming.”
I don’t go in much for the Second Coming. That’s almost completely because as a child I was taught to look for the Second Coming in literal form. Christ would part the clouds and descend with armies of angels, and the whole affair was tangled up in disputed versions of the Rapture and the Millenial Reign of Christ, who would be left behind and when.
As is so often the case, early, literal versions of a truth inoculate us against the fullness of that truth which can only be hinted at in metaphor and song.
To wit, the Second Coming is powerfully real. The principalities and powers that rule this world are not the ultimate sovereign—God is. The world system that promises the good life but that delivers bondage and despair is not the only game in town. There is another reality, an alternative way of living. The Second Coming declares that the peace and justice of Christ will ultimately prevail, and the secret is, that new way of living is on offer right now. You don’t have to wait until the Son of Man comes with the clouds.
The Second Coming says, Live today with that kind of expectation and hope.
There’s a curious tale about a tourist traveling along the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy. When he reached the castle, Villa Asconati, an elderly gardener opened the gate and showed him the grounds that he kept in immaculate condition. The tourist asked when the owner had last been there.
“Twelve years ago,” the man answered.
“Does he ever write to you?” the tourist asked.
“No,” was the reply.
“Then from whom do you get your instructions?”
“From his agent in Milan.”
“Does he come at all?”
“Who comes here then?”
“I am almost always alone,” said the gardener, “only once in a while does a tourist like yourself come by.”
“But,” said the man, “you keep these grounds just as if you expect your master to come tomorrow.”
“Not tomorrow, sir,” the old gardener promptly corrected him. “Today, I expect him today.”