Advent is a time to prepare for the end of the world. The Church knows this because she has been aware that we are in the end times since Good Friday. Centuries have passed, yet we wait. We wait patiently for Jesus to come in glory to judge the living and the dead because he promised, “I am coming soon” (Rev 22:20).
In Advent, the Church proclaims the coming of Christ two thousand years ago, today, and on the Last Day. This is the sermon she has preached to the world since the beginning. She preached it to Jews and Romans, Germans and Nords, and all around the world. The proclamation of Christ's coming is for all people, at all times.
But, the world changes. Nations rise and fall. Religions come and go. Technology and innovation are always changing. Cultures grow and implode. But what never changes is that the world has no use for the Church's message. People mock the Church for her constant, one-note, preaching. “And he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”
“It's not happened yet, so it's never going to happen.”
“It's not relevant for people today.”
“What good is a message of future judgment when I've got to deal with other peoples' judgment of me today?”
“I don't even understand the point of what you're trying to say!”
Jesus is the light and life of the world. He came to his own people, but they did not recognize him. And he still cannot get a hearing today. While the world searches for the meaning of life in ancient philosophies and new-age fads, Jesus comes and announces himself to them. The Bread of Life, the living Word of God, comes to offer true enlightenment and life to all people.
And so, to quote the great Lutheran theologian Hermann Sasse:
“It will be up to men to discern a ‘yes’ from his gospel. Men who understand ‘the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me’ (Luke 7:23-24). Foolish perhaps in the eyes of the world, but foolishness in Christ (1 Cor 4:10). Men who hear his word throughout all the past centuries separate us from him. Men who are called by his name, to whom he said, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ (Matt 9:2).”
The message of Advent is the never-changing proclamation that time is up. Jesus has come into the world, and the Holy Spirit calls people to him by the gospel. Enlightenment is available to all sinners through Christ's gifts of salvation. True faith and holiness are offered to the world through his word. The message of Advent is a proclamation of repentance and hope. God has come in the flesh to announce his great “yes” to all those who sit in the darkness of sin and death. To those who do receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).