One of the paradoxes of Advent is that it seems to call us to get excited about the prospect of Christ’s coming. Yet, we cannot adequately prepare for the coming of Jesus by temporary excitement. Few things discredit the church more that Adventist movements that exhort people to urgent action by saying that Jesus is coming soon. They are invariably followed by disappointment when Jesus doesn’t come as expected. Enthusiasm then gives way to disillusionment.
Unfortunately, such movements and messages do not pay attention to what the Bible says about how to get ready for the coming of Jesus. For example, in the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matt. 25:1-14) and The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus emphasized that we get ready for his coming by being continually faithful in the things God has given us over long seasons of time. As the master in the parable of the Talents said to the man who had been diligent with the money he had been given: “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matt. 25:23).
Adventist movements that proclaim the coming of Jesus miss the central point of the church’s liturgy, which is that Jesus comes to us now. The Second Coming of Jesus is foreshadowed every Sunday in the Eucharist. The Bible tells us that at the end of time, Jesus will descend from heaven and his saints will be gathered to meet him. In the Sacrament of the altar, Jesus descends from heaven to meet us, and we are gathered around his presence at the altar to receive him now.
We meet Christ at the altar on the Lord’s Day to prepare to meet him in person on the Day of the Lord. Thus, we get ready for the final Advent of our Lord by faithfully preparing to meet him now. Perhaps one Sunday we will say, “Behold the Lamb of God” and, rather than his Sacramental Presence, will see our Lord in person. As Jesus said, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (Matt. 24:45-46).