The word "Advent" means "the arrival of a notable person". In the case of the Christian church, it means the arrival of Jesus Christ. And, this "arrival" usually refers to His birth, which some refer to as His "first Advent". Interestingly, in today's Advent meditation from Tozer, he focuses on Christ's second Advent, right here in early December. I found that a curious focus, until he hammered me.
The essential point Tozer makes is that celebrating Christ's first Advent was important to the early Church, but the anticipation of His second Advent (sometimes called His second coming) far eclipsed the first in their hearts. Why, do you suppose? In modern day Christianity, the birth of Christ receives far more attention...
There's certainly nothing wrong with anticipating the celebration of Christ's birth. Doing so, meditating on prophecies of His birth, celebrating the amazing work God did in sending Christ to us, adds richness to this special season. Tozer doesn't take anything away from that when he states that the return of Christ is "all but dead among us". Do you believe that to be true today? Is it true in your life? I had to ask myself if it is true in mine; I didn't like the answer.
Members of the early Church expected the Lord to return to Earth during their lifetimes, at any moment, in fact. They were mistaken about the time of His return, but they were not mistaken in their attitude to expect it at any moment. (Were they?)
Tozer poses several reasons for why the longing that burned in the breasts of the early believers seems to have "burned itself out" today.
1. A relational love for Jesus Christ has been replaced with a detached, contractual obligation. Love will carry you where mere duty never will. Unfortunately, modern-day Christendom has overemphasized the "duty" of faith so much that the adoration of the Savior has fallen away. The drudgery of "taking up the cross" in discipleship has squeezed out the beauty of the One who died upon it.
2. Conversely, many Christians are so comfortable in their cocoons of this life that they have little desire to leave them. This is especially true in parts of the world where faith in Jesus Christ exacts no extreme personal cost. As long as we are healthy, happy and able to practice a "safe faith", a faith that can veer off into mere "religious entertainment", why should we forsake it for a world about which we know little? Why should we long to be with Christ, face-to-face?
3. And then, some just frankly don't really believe He will return at all. "Certainly, if such an advent would occur, it won't occur for years and years....far after our generation is long gone..." Right?
A gospel song we used to sing when I was a child was called, "Will Jesus Find Us Watching"? I've reproduced the lyrics at the bottom of this post. I can't recall a single, modern-day song sung in church today about the second Advent, actually...can you? Leave the title in the comments section of this post, if you can.
I don't know about you, but I always find thoughts of Jesus' second Advent very personally convicting. "Am I loving Him as He deserves? Does my love for Him translate into spending my days WELL?" How would our daily lives be different, if we truly were looking for Jesus' return any day now? Would priorities re-align? I'm quite sure they would.
Tozer, A.W. From Heaven. 2016. Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL.