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By W. TERENCE ERBELE
Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church year. Like Lent, it is a season of preparation and waiting for a celebration. Advent means arrival, initiation or dawn.
So much of our human experience is disheartening. We are imprisoned by habits. We understand the prayer of Charles Wesley: "From our fears and sins release us." Circumstances of life discourage us and seemingly even more so this time of year when we are told, "‘Tis the season to be jolly."
Whether we are mired down in despair, simply feeling blue or just going through the motions of daily routine the good news is the Advent of Christ. The one who was there at the beginning of creation, who rules over all things, seen and unseen, became a human and lived among us. Jesus knows our every weakness. His arrival is truly good news because he came to enable us to have abundant life filled with joy, peace and hope.
Every Sunday millions proclaim the mystery of the Christian faith. "Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again." How can it be? The Immortal died. We cannot comprehend this but what matters is that Jesus did die our behalf. His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness. By the atoning work of Christ we are set free from the sins that ensnare us.
The second phrase proclaims what St. Paul calls the cap stone. When Jesus was raised by the power of the Holy Spirit we were given the assurance that all of God’s promises are kept. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
The first phrase is past tense. The second phrase is present tense. Christ is alive now. The third phrase is future tense. Christ will come again. The Second Advent is based on Jesus’ promise that he would return. Nobody knows when. The Bible gives us a glimpse of that glorious day when the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more.
That Christ will come again also has another meaning. Jesus was born, Jesus died, Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven are important historical facts of the first coming. Christ will come again to each individual that puts her/his trust in Him today. If you find yourself in the ashes of despondency Christ will come again at your invitation and will lift you up. If you are beset with sin Christ will come and forgive you. If you are lonely Christ is ready to be your friend. If you are struggling the Spirit of Christ Jesus is able to come again and give you the necessary strength.
Indeed, what can be more positive than the Advent of Christ — first or second?
Rev. W. Terence Erbele is pastor of Ketchikan’s United Methodist Church