Happy Advent, everyone! Jesus comes–Christus adveniat. How does He come? He comes to us in three ways—in history, in mystery, and in majesty.
In history, we see a chain of events unfold:
—from the first pages of Genesis—>our creation
—to our fall—>our captivity in sin
—to Jesus’ entry into history in the Annunciation and in His nativity—>beginning His rescue operation
—to us deciding to trust Him or not—>our response.
Knowing His story, the story of the historical Jesus, Who shaped the time, place, and manner of His birth, for Whom all of history happened, and through Him history takes on its meaning—knowing this gives us insight into our own lives.
Jesus comes to us in mystery, too. Literally, the word ‘sacrament’ is ‘mysterion’ in Greek. What happened on a cosmic scale at the first Christmas happens in microcosm in the life of every Christian. We have a narrative arc based around the person of Jesus. He is birthed into our lives when we are birthed into the life of the Church at our baptisms. The marriage of heaven and earth, begun two thousand plus years ago, is consummated again in us in the Eucharist. The seven sacraments are seven ways in which the grace of the gospel message touches our lives and transforms our hearts. These mysteries of the Christian faith are bottomless treasures of meaning that Jesus is inviting us to dive deeper into. Our access to the historical Jesus is not in scholarly work or in archeological digs, but in encountering Him in Word and Sacrament. Our access to His grace is tied up in our response to His living presence.
Jesus comes ultimately in majesty. He took on the form of a slave, and became as sin for us, when He came into history. He comes in the intimacy, simplicity, and appearance of water, wine, oil, and bread in mystery. He will come again with the trappings of a king, a judge, a warrior, and a bridegroom when He comes in majesty. Our decision now, to side with Him and against the sins that would enslave us, will affect how He comes to us at the end of our lives and the end of time. He has given us so much—if we decide to live in gratitude, and to make of our lives a gift in return to God and neighbor, He will find us like Him, and so share in His eternal life. If we decide to bury His gift and think Him harsh and unfeeling, we will live mean and guarded lives, never getting over ourselves and never living the full life He intends for us. If He comes to us after we choose ingratitude, He will find our hearts turned utterly inward, and leave us to wallow in our self-pity and our bitterness, a hell of our own making. Our response to Jesus is not a one-time thing, but a lifetime thing.
Advent is a time to consider the coming of Jesus—to reflect on His entry to the world in Bethlehem of Judea, His entry into our lives in the most blessed sacrament, and His entry into the end of all things as Judge and Bridegroom. When we know His story, we’ll either let His story become our story, or not. As St. Augustine once noted, God made us without us, but He won’t save us without us.
– Joseph Gruber