ADVENT – THE SECOND COMING
Here we are at the second Sunday of Advent. It is a time of preparation as we look toward the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem. We all know that. We all know the traditions. We all know what Christmas is all about.
We also know, or at least we should know, that Advent is also about the second coming of Christ. Our faith tells us that at the end of time, he will return in glory to complete the kingdom that he began when he first walked the earth 2,000 years ago. That part of Advent often gets missed in many churches but, here at Cottam United Church, we are careful to go over that important point every year.
Every Advent we remember Christmas. We know all about the angels, the shepherds and the wisemen. We read about them. We sing about them. We teach about them. We also take time to think about what the Bible has to say about the next time that Jesus comes. Advent, after all, is a time of waiting. So, as we await the Second Coming what are we waiting for?
THE SECOND COMING IN CAROLS
There are hints of the second coming throughout Scripture. It also shows up in the great creeds of the Church when we say that we believe that Jesus will come again. It even shows up from time to time in Advent and Christmas carols. In one of the verses of “Angels from the Realms of Glory” we read these words:
he shall fill his Father’s throne,
gather all the nations to him;
every knee shall then bow down.
In It Came upon a Midnight Clear we find this verse:
For lo! the days are hastening on,
by prophet seen of old,
when with the ever-circling years
shall come the time foretold
when peace shall over all the earth
its ancient splendors fling,
and the whole world send back the song
which now the angels sing.
And then there is this verse from the Advent carol, “Hark, A Herald Voice Is Sounding”:
that when next he comes with glory,
and the world is wrapped in fear,
with his mercy he may shield us,
and with words of love draw near.
The images of the second coming are crystal clear when we look for them.
THE SECOND COMING IN SCRIPTURE
The next thing we realize is that most of the Advent passages that we read from the biblical prophets have just as much to say about the second coming than the first. Let’s look at today’s reading from Isaiah 11:1-10. The first two and a bit verses remind us of the Christmas story:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
From verse 1 we learn that he is from the family of Jesse and a descendant of David. In verse 2 we learn that he is filled with the Spirit. All of that is true and all of it applied to Jesus’ life on earth after he was born at Bethlehem.
But let’s take a close look at what’s in the rest of verse 3 down to verse 9 which say this:
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
These verses are all second coming imagery. Look what happens. Jesus becomes the judge. Then the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion will be together, the cow will feed with the bear and their young will lie down together. The lion will eat straw like an ox. A young child will put his hand into a snake’s nest with no worry of being bit. Has anyone seen that happening anytime recently? It goes on to say that there will be neither harm nor destruction and the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. If people think that’s a reality today, then they need to start paying more attention to the nightly news. None of this was true in Jesus’ day and it certainly isn’t true today. Why? Because this prophecy is not about Christmas. It is about the second coming, about when Jesus returns in glory.
The first time he came, he gave us a taste of the Kingdom of God. His job was to give his life on the cross and pay the price of our sins. That’s why he was born in Bethlehem. That was the primary reason why he came – to defeat the power of sin and the chains of death so that we can have eternal life through faith in him. When he returns the second time, he will complete the Kingdom which he began when he walked the earth. It is after his second coming that the wolf will lie down with the lamb, the cow and the bear will feed together, the lion will eat straw and the child will not be bitten by the snake. It is after the second coming that there will neither harm nor destruction and the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. Those things are yet to come and they will not happen until Jesus returns.
GATHERING UNDER THE BANNER
The verse I want to focus on for the rest of this message, however, is verse 10 which simply says this:
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
This single verse has so much to say about Jesus’ second coming. Let’s spend some time unpacking it.
The very first that we discover is that it is talking about Jesus. Jesus is from the Root of Jesse. That’s because Jesus was a descendant of King David and Jesse was David’s father. As Christians, we believe that this prophecy applies to Jesus.
But what does it say that Jesus will do? It says that he will stand as a banner for the peoples. To understand that imagery, we have to think about armies gathering for war. If we were to go back in time to a battlefield in Isaiah’s day, we would see two armies facing off against one another on an open field. We’d also notice something else. Within the ranks of the armies would be men holding brightly coloured banners. These banners were not simply for show. They served a far more important purpose. They indicated who was on which side of the field, which army was which. As the soldiers arrived on the battlefield, they would know which banner was theirs and they would go to it. Those colourful banners were the rallying points of the armies.
They also served another function. They were a challenge. They boldly declared who was where and then they challenged the arriving soldiers to make a choice. Whose side are you on? Are you on my side or are you on the side of my enemy. Make you choice. You cannot stand in the middle because in the middle there is only sure destruction. You have to choose. So what will it be? To whose banner will you turn? Under whose banner will you go into battle?
This is good imagery because it reminds us that when Jesus comes again there will be two distinct sides. There will be the army of God and the army of Satan. They will face off against one another. And all people will be required to choose. Will they choose the side of righteousness and follow Christ or will they side with evil and follow the Author of Lies? It’s a choice that we all have to make. The banners will be there for us to see. I don’t know what Satan’s banner will look like. I don’t know how to best symbolize sin and pain and death. I don’t know how to do that. But I’m pretty sure that I know what will be on Jesus’ banner for there is no symbol that speaks louder and stronger than the cross. It is the symbol of life. It is the symbol of love. It is the symbol of victory.
THE CHURCH AS A GATHERED COMMUNITY
The second thing that we learn from this verse of prophecy is that it is important that Christians gather together. Isaiah writes that the nations will rally to Jesus, the Root of Jesse. We forget sometimes that Christianity is a social religion. It cannot be properly practiced in solitude. To put it as clearly as I can, Christians need other Christians. We might come to Jesus one at a time in our personal commitment as individuals. But once we’ve committed our lives to Christ, we are called to gather with other people of the faith. That’s what we call the Church.
We’ve all heard people say something like, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christians.” My response to that is, “Yes, you do.” There is absolutely no provision in Scripture for a solitary Christian. Quite the contrary; Hebrews 10:25 (NIV) says that we are, “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” The Day, of course, refers to Jesus’ coming. God created Christianity to be a communal religion of the gathered faithful. Let’s be faithful to that command.
The point is that God calls us to gather together under the banner of the cross. Not only do we do that in life through the gathered Church. We will also do it at the second coming. When that day comes and Jesus returns in glory, guess what will happen first? To learn that, we need to leave Isaiah for a moment and turn to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV) which reads:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
This is a key verse of the second coming because it tells us the very first thing that will happen when Jesus returns. Jesus will come down from heaven. It won’t be a secret. God will make sure of that. There will be a loud command. There will be archangels and trumpet blasts. Everyone will know what is happening. No one can possibly miss it. The entire world will know that Jesus has returned.
Then what will happen? Jesus will pause half-way between heaven and earth. Then the graves of the saints who have died will open up and the dead in Christ will rise. They will be the first to meet him because they remained faithful even unto death. Then those who still alive will be caught up with them and together they will meet the Lord in the air.
Once again, the church gathers. The dead will gather. The living will gather. All will gather. The very first thing that Jesus will do when he comes again is gather the faithful to himself.
Not only will we gather, we also will be transformed. The dead will rise again in resurrection. Those who are still alive will fly up in the air to meet Jesus. These are not things that we cannot do right now. They are extraordinary happenings.
WAITING FOR HIS COMING
Okay, so we know a couple of things now. We know that both the living and dead in Christ will rise to meet him in the air. We also know that in the twinkling of an eye we will be transformed. Our mortal bodies will be clothed with immortality so that we can live forever with Jesus in the Kingdom. Then what happens?
There are various schools of thought on this because it is not at all clear but what I believe the Bible supports is that once the living and the dead have met the Lord in the air, they will then return to earth to complete the Kingdom of God.
What a wonderful thought that is. What a marvelous hope. What an amazing promise by him who gave all that he had – even his very life on the cross – for us. He will do all of this. All of this will happen so that we can all gather with him forever in that place were the lions and lambs truly will lie down together, where the cow and the bear will feed together and where a child will have no need to fear the snake’s bite, where there will be no more harm or destruction and where the whole earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. What a wonderful day that will be when we gather before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
One last thing to consider is this. Advent is a time of waiting and waiting is key to the second coming. Despite the numerous attempts to date Jesus’ return, no one has yet been right because the Bible is clear; the day and hour of his coming cannot be known by us. All we can do is be ready when it happens. And the only way to be ready is to make sure that each of our hearts is right with God. If you have never given your heart to Jesus, maybe now is the time to do that. Maybe now is the time to give control of your life to him and allow him to be Lord of all that you do. That will be the greatest Christmas gift that you could ever give to yourself because it will change your life forever in ways that you can never imagine.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We come to you on this second Sunday of Advent, ready to prepare our lives for your return. You came to us once in the Child of Bethlehem. We look forward to the day when you will fulfill the Kingdom that you began on earth during your walk with us. When we look around at the beauty of Creation, we cannot doubt your presence. As your glory fills the skies, may your love fill our hearts.
We are thankful for your amazing compassion. You came to rescue us from our need and to set our feet on the path of peace. We ask that you enable us to share that same compassion with those in this world who are in need. Prepare and equip us to work in your harvest for this generation. Help us to freely give as we have freely received from you.
We remember in this Advent season those for whom Christmas will be a difficult time. There are those who have lost loved ones this past year. Relationships have been broken. Health issues have arisen. Enable us to support those who feel these loses in their times of need. If the joy of the Christmas season cannot be shared by everyone, then at least let us rejoice that God has come among us in a tiny child laid in a manger. Through faith in him, we can overcome our grief and find the healing that we desire.
We remember the sick of our congregation and community especially during this special season. Grant healing and peace, O God of the Living.
Help us, O God, to recognize and seize every opportunity to share the message of Jesus Christ in every possible way. May we never forget that sharing this message of hope and forgiveness is not only a privilege, but also a command. As the Good News is shared, may your love abound, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
December 4, 2022 / Advent 1
Isaiah 11: 1‑10; Psalm 72: 1‑7, 18‑19; Matthew 3: 1‑12; Romans 15: 4‑13
CALL TO WORSHIP
ONE: There’s a voice in the wilderness crying;
ALL: “Prepare the way for the Lord.”
ONE: Let us ready our hearts for God’s Anointed One.
ALL: Let us prepare our minds for the Holy One of Israel.
ONE: Let us proclaim the One who comes to us in humility;
ALL: Praise be to God, who lives within in Christ Jesus.
God of Advent, we come before you in this season to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child of Bethlehem. Reveal to us the things that matter the most. Make us wise in the things of the Spirit. Your love is strong and your hand is gentle. Straighten the road that runs before us. Guide us into your way and set our feet upon the rock solid ground of faith.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Our Advent preparation is rooted in our repentance. How often we have turned from your path. We have acted with power against our sisters and brothers. Like lions, we have pounced upon the lamb. Like bears, we have hunted the calves. But you call us with a different vision. Encourage us, God of Compassion, to see a world where lions and sheep rest together, where cattle and sheep feed in the same field. We confess our short-sightedness and seek your forgiveness.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
God’s promises are dependable. God’s mercy is sure. When we confess our sins and lay them at the feet of the Holy Child of Bethlehem we are cleansed by the Spirit of new life and healing. Be assured that our sins are forgiven.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
You came to us, Almighty God, in the form of a Child. You gave all that you had for us and for our salvation. These gifts are symbols of our thanksgiving. More than that, they are signs of the hope that you have placed within us. Bless these gifts as you have bless us.
The Good News cannot be kept to ourselves. It calls us to share the Gospel of Christ with all Creation. As we leave, may the blessings of Christ surround us and give us peace