During the season of Advent we fix our minds on the two “comings” of Christ. First, and most obviously His coming amongst us as the Word made Flesh in His Nativity. Even the world outside the Church acknowledges this. Despite its best efforts to sanitise Christmas and to denude it of its essential message, even the world sees that there is something that speaks to the heart of what it means to be a human being in that little baby in a stable stall. So, first of all, Advent is about our journey toward Christ in His first coming at Bethlehem in Judaea. Secondly, and perhaps less popularly, the season of Advent looks towards the coming of Christ again at the end of time. This is far less comforting (for believers and non-believers alike) but Christians profess: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” And so He will; Christ will return and will expose the hidden places of our hearts, to judge us and all of mankind according to our deeds. He will come to sort the sheep from the goats (Mt 25:32).
In these two “comings” there is a particular certainty. We know that Jesus Christ was born in a stable, and we believe too with all our hearts that He will come again in glory and judgement. And so in a certain sense the great question posed to us by this season is not so much whether Christ will be born, or whether He will come again, but rather, How do I respond to this in faith? How does the coming of Christ, in which I believe, change who I am and how I live my life?
The readings we have today help answer this conundrum. In the First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah we hear the prophet proclaim the coming of the Messiah, announcing to the world in striking and unambiguous words, “Here is your God.” (Is. 40:9). And in the gospel Saint John the Baptist is presented as the one who by his life lived that proclamation of the Messiah, of Christ, by outward and interior humility—the striking oddities of his clothing and eating habits—and by his confession: “I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of His sandals” (Mk 1:7).
And so if there is a single message here it seems to me that it is this: if we do believe that the Messiah has come to us as Jesus Christ (which we do) and if we do believe that He will come again to judge the living and the dead (which we do), action on our part is the only reasonable and logical response. If like the Prophet Isaiah and, even more so, like Saint John the Baptist we have our eyes fixed on that twofold coming of Christ then we must imitate these two great figures by going “up on a high mountain” and shouting “with a loud voice” and “without fear” to the towns and cities and peoples of our time: “Here is your God” (Is. 40). We must take up the mantle given by these two watchman of the coming of the Messiah, of the Christ, and proclaim with even more conviction and certainty that, as Saint Paul would have it, “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).
How might our lives proclaim Christ to others? Another episode in the life of Saint John the Baptist perhaps sheds some light on this for us. In the Gospel according to Saint John we read for the first time words that we hear again and again. The gospel reads: “The next day [Saint John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). John becomes a signpost to Christ. He engages in a personal encounter with others, and points them beyond himself—“He must increase, but I must decrease”—to Christ (Jn 3:30). And he points them not to the idea of Christ, not to some mere prophecy about Christ, but to His very and real person. This is why the Church has claimed that text—“Behold the Lamb of God”—for the moment of Holy Communion. At that moment the Church engages in a profound act of evangelization, of mission, of invitation, as She invites us, as She invites you and me and the whole world, to come to Christ: to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him.
The Season of Advent is, indeed, a time of waiting for the coming of Christ. But it is not an idle waiting, wasting time like people at a bus stop or a doctor’s surgery. It is a time of active anticipation for the coming of the Christ Whom we believe will come and in Whose coming we have invested our lives. May we go out to meet Him, and may we bring others to the fullness of life and love that we know Christ alone can offer.