Biblical people always seem to be hoping and waiting for Gods arrival. Five hundred
years before Jesus birth, Third-Isaiah begs Yahweh in the first reading on Sunday
(Is 63: 16-17, 19; 64: 2-7) to rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains
quaking before you...for you have hidden your face from us and have delivered us up to our
The prophet believes only Yahwehs arrival can save the Israelites from all the
problems which have entangled them since their return from Babylon.
This longing for and anticipation of Gods presence carries over into the Christian
Scriptures. Yet it shows itself in ways we often overlook. No matter how hard we try to
surface them, we really dont have any passages which mirror our preparing for
First things last
The authors of the Christian Scriptures would understand neither our celebration of Advent
or our commemoration of the millennium. Both revolve around an arrival of God which the
first Christians thought insignificant: the historical Jesus birth.
Had Dionysius the Short, the creator of the modern calendar, lived in the first century,
instead of the sixth, the beginning of the second Christian millennium would still be 30
All the early Churchs theology, Scripture and dating starts not with Jesus
birth, but with His death and resurrection. That event alone determined how His followers
lived their lives. Ones Christian faith was judged on how closely he or she tried to
imitate the faith of Jesus, which brought Him through death to life, not on how one
celebrated Christmas. Even our two Gospel infancy narratives were shaped by Matthew and
Lukes reflection on Jesus dying and rising.
So when in Sundays second (I Cor 1: 3-9) and third (Mk 13: 33-37) readings biblical
Christians speak about waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, or
encourage people to be alert for Jesus coming, they arent
referring to His birth in Bethlehem, but to His second coming as the risen Lord, a coming
anticipated by everyone living in Christianitys first 40 years.
Both Paul and Mark, thinking Jesus Parousia to be just around the corner, often
encourage their communities to be prepared for His arrival.
In the second reading, for instance, Paul basically tells his Corinthian church to
hang in there. He (God) will keep you firm to the end, he writes,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul bases his confidence
on an experience all Christians share: the fellowship each has with the risen
Jesus right here and now, even before the Parousia. The person we expect to come in the
future is already one with us in the present.
Likewise, Mark compares Jesus second coming to an important individual who could
arrive home from a long trip at any time. May he not come suddenly, he prays,
and find you (the servants) sleeping. Theres only one thing anyone can
do to prepare for such an untimed situation: Watch!
Of course, as we read early Christian authors, like Paul and Mark, who presume Jesus
Parousia is imminent, we realize that 1,950 years later, Jesus still hasnt returned
in the way they expected. How can Christianity still exist if its earliest expectations
The continuation of our faith depends on one ting: a constant imitation of Jesus
dying and rising. It was that imitation which eventually led our biblical writers to
discover Jesus presence in each person who followed Him, allowing them to push their
expectation of an actual Parousia onto the back burner of faith.
Do you realize that if Jesus first followers had made a big deal out of His birth,
we today wouldnt even be celebrating Advent or the millennium. Wed know about
Christianity only from a college history of religions course!