how should we feel about the Lord’s coming?

In case you don’t keep track of these things, the Christian liturgical calendar recently ticked over into the season of Advent. Leading up to Christmas, Advent’s a season with a dual focus: the first coming of the Lord (ie. the incarnation) and his second coming, parousia or ‘royal appearing’.

People have been posting their Advent reflections, prayers, and protests (with the Occupy movement in full flower, seems ’tis the season).

I want to ask an Advent question:

How should we feel about the Lord’s coming? In particular, what emotions should be stirred in us at the prospect of his return — his second Advent?

The second coming of Jesus is usually associated with the fearful thought of judgement. But in my experience of Advent the primary affections are positive: hope, joy, peace, etc.

So should belief in the final judgement of the world by Jesus make us more serious and weighed down or should it instil in us a sort of joyful lightness?

Lurking behind this question is another:

How does Christ’s first Advent relate to his second?

Is it primarily a matter of contrast — forgiveness and exemption from judgement now, wrath and universally enforced judgement to come? Like what’s maybe envisaged in Hebrews 9.28 when it says that “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him”?

Or is it more a matter of continuity? The identity and significance of Jesus was shrouded in the dubious circumstances of his doubtful origin, only fleetingly glimpsed in his earthly life and ministry, and declared with power by his resurrection from the dead. And yet it still awaits a universal unveiling — a day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess him as Lord.

So which is it? How should we feel about the Lord’s coming?

Gut (or more considered) reactions welcome!

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