An Appropriately Apocalyptic Advent
by Erik Ritland
The Word and the Church
Bible commentary following the Catholic Lectionary (which gives an overview of the entire Bible) by the Fully Alive staff
Monday of the First Week of Advent
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Is 4: 2-6
Rom 13: 11-14
Mt 8: 5-11
There's an apocalyptic aspect to Advent that is sometimes under-emphasized. Yes, during this blessed season we are eagerly awaiting the birth of our savior in a humble stable in Bethlehem. Yet we are also awaiting his second coming.
In the Gospel of John, whenever Jesus mentions his "glory" he is always talking about the cross. In the Revelation of John, we learn of his other, second, ultimate glory: when he returns to judge the living and the dead based on their deeds. During Advent, we anticipate God's breaking into the world as a human being knowing his ultimate purpose: our redemption on the cross, his glory. In a complimentary way we look forward to his ultimate glory as God's anointed at the end of time.
The first reading from the book of Isaiah speaks of God's arrival on the scene: "The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory, the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor...the LORD's glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain." On the cross Jesus inaugurated God's kingdom "on earth as it is in heaven," and living in this kingdom we see and participate in this "luster and glory." But we also know that the world is still fallen, that there is still an ultimate fight to be won. And so we also look forward to Christ's second coming.
This both/and emphasis is seen in today's Gospel. What does this kingdom that Jesus is launching look like? It heals the sick, as Jesus does. It is also predicated on faith, which the centurion with the paralyzed servant has to such a degree that Jesus is in awe of him. Faith and healing are two foundational aspects of Jesus' kingdom on earth today. All are invited to be kingdom people in thought, word, and deed.
If we are, we "will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the banquet in the Kingdom of Heaven" at the end of time, as Jesus cryptically reminds us at the end of the gospel.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. He is the lead staff writer and podcast host of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, which features commentary on music, sports, and an intellectual ragbag. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
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Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.