Announcing the Three Comings of Jesus
There is a little girl whom I’ve known since before she was born. She was a latecomer to her family, her brothers all teenagers. I’ve followed her from Baptism through an occasional hello to the family on Sunday or her mom and her at a daily mass. Over the years she has become the main person to whom I regift from my stash of chocolates. Small bits with an occasional reminder to share. She is now a first grader. This Advent she got a bonus. I gave her a tree with little windows that you open, one for each day of Advent and behind each window is a chocolate! I wonder if her mother passed on the instruction, ‘one window a day’? Or if her daughter will simply chop down the tree with a chocolate binge before the week is over? Will this somewhat exercise in torture and delight, speak something of anticipation and patient waiting to a six-year-old?
Advent brings us to the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation. Lukes’ ‘fullness of time’. Madeline L’Engle describes it beautifully: this is “the irrational season when love bloomed bright and wild. Had Mary been filled with reason, there would have been no room for the child.”
Not only do we celebrate Jesus’ birth among us, we look to a final coming of Our Lord.
What we know will pass but we have the vision of our gathering at the banquet table of eternal life. These were the words of Isaias the first Wednesday of Advent,
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples
a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is
woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. (Isaias 25: 6-7)
Or as C.S.Lewis describes it when the children in the Chronicles of Narnia are told they have left the Shadowlands (died): “School is over: the holidays have begun”.
And there is the ‘third’ coming of Christ, Christ among us now. It is like playing hide and seek. God hiding, our searching, or our hiding and God seeking. It is a game where those who play are meant to be found. Then the laughter begins. Advent reminds us that finding Jesus among us may have us looking into darkness still. We may not see him clearly, it may be surprisingly hard to accept what we find, and obstacles appear unsurmountable at times. An Advent prayer from mass sums up the three ways that we find Jesus coming to us: May we who have shared the sacrifice of Jesus, the gift of the Last Supper, receive strength in this present moment and may it help us along our journey to eternal life.
In our gospel the apostles announce, “The reign of God is at hand”. Jesus has come to us, he is with us, we look to our being together in God’s presence for eternity, this is what they proclaim. It may seem to be a jumble or mix, and it is. But each part of this mystery helps us to better see the others. How coincidental it is that a Willie Wonka movie will be out during the holidays. He is Willie Wonka who has the magical chocolate factory! I imagine a trip with my little friend. After waiting, enjoying but sadly running out of her Advent chocolates, perhaps in this move we will find something of the hopes and joys of Advent fulfilled, a vision of the banquet table of heaven?
Fr. William Murphy, CP is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Jamaica, New York.