December 17, 2020
Bridle Creek Circuit
New River District
Revelation 22:20-2120 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
DevotionThe word ‘Advent’ comes from the old latin: adventus, meaning: arrival. As we draw near to the close of advent, our hearts make the turn from preparation to arrival. Soon this season of longing will be consummated in celebration. Jesus will finally come! That’s what advent is all about: hope being fulfilled in the arrival of the King.
The 11th century Saint, Bernard of Clairvaux, spoke of there being three advents. Three arrivals. The first is Jesus’ arrival to humanity. 2,000 years ago the word was made flesh and dwelled among us. To paraphrase Eugene Peterson, “God put on skin and moved into the neighborhood.”
The second advent is Jesus’ arrival in humanity. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus enters the heart of every Christian. This is the arrival the carols speak of when they say, “let every heart prepare him room.”
The third and final advent is Jesus’ arrival for humanity. This is when Christ will return in final victory and the Kingdom of God which he inaugurated with his first arrival will be completed in our midst.
It is these three advents that we celebrate this Christmas. We celebrate that Jesus arrived to us, that he arrives in us, and that he shall arrive for us. To be a Christian is to live between the realities of Jesus’ coming. We walk as disciples who did not know him in the flesh and who have not yet met him in the air. We are between advents. But that does not make Jesus’ arrival any less real in our lives. We walk in faith and not by sight. We walk in the sure hope of Jesus’ promise. We walk as disciples of the second advent!
When I think of the second advent, I think of the old English story about a monk named Friar Martin.
It was Christmas Eve and Friar Martin was deep in prayer. Suddenly, there in his little house in the woods, Martin had a vision. In the vision he saw Jesus. Jesus said to him, “Rejoice, Friar Martin, for tomorrow I am coming to visit you and we shall celebrate Christmas together!”
Friar Martin was overjoyed and he woke up Christmas morning excited for the arrival of Jesus. He knew that he needed to put out a wonderful feast for Jesus so he went into his cupboard and got out his most valuable possessions: two plates of fine silver. After that, he went into his yard and got his only goose and prepared it and put it in the oven. Then he put on his finest robe so he would look presentable when Jesus came.
Friar Martin waited all morning for Jesus to arrive. Finally at about noon a knock came at the door. Could this be it? Had Jesus finally arrived? Martin opened the door and there was a man in tattered clothes. A stranger.
“Merry Christmas, kind sir,” the beggar said, “I hate to bother you on Christmas but I am a long way from home. I am trying to get back to my village by this evening so I can celebrate with my family. I was wondering if you might spare a coin so that I could pay for transport.”
Martin felt sorry for the man and he knew that transport in town was going to cost more than a coin. He looked over at his table and saw the two silver plates. “Surely,” he said to himself, “Jesus won’t mind to eat off my everyday plates so long as we have that big Christmas goose, and I am still in my finest robe.” So he gave the man the silver plates and sent him on his way.
Now Friar Martin sat by the window and waited patiently for Jesus’ arrival. He waited. And waited. And waited. Finally at about 3:00, there came another knock at the door. “Surely this is him,” Martin thought. Perfect timing too. The goose is ready!”
Martin opened the door and there was an old woman. “I don’t mean to bother you on Christmas,” the old woman said, “But I’m awfully hungry. I’m a widow and I have no one to take care of me. I haven’t eaten in days.” Martin felt sorry for the woman and looked over at the oven. He thought to himself: “This woman needs meat far more than I do. I’ve got some bread and some vegetables I can fix for dinner. I’m sure Jesus won’t mind to eat bread and vegetables so long as I am wearing my finest robe for him. That will show him I’ve gone to some effort to prepare for his arrival.” So he gave the old widow the goose and sent her on her way.
Well Martin sat by the window and waited patiently for Jesus’. He waited. And waited. And waited. But Jesus never came. The sky grew dark and it began to snow. And as the snow piled and his candle burned down to almost nothing, Martin lost hope. “Jesus has obviously decided not to come,” he thought to himself. “Maybe he knows that I gave away his meal and he’s angry. Or perhaps he’s detained by the snow...” Just then, about an hour to midnight,a knock came to the door. Martin jumped up out of his chair. This must be him! Who else would come at this time of night!
He got to the door, opened it, and there was a small child. The child was shivering in the snow. “I hate to bother you on Christmas, sir, but I’m lost. Could you please tell me where the village is?” Martin looked down at the child and felt sorry for him. He could tell him where the village was but the snow was coming down so hard and fast now you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The boy wasn’t even wearing a coat. He’d catch his death out there. So Martin went to his room and changed out of his fine robe.
Then he brought it to the boy and wrapped it around him as a cloak. Martin took the candle out of the window and guided the boy to town.
When Martin arrived back at his little house in the woods, it was well past midnight. “Well, if Jesus DID come, he came to a dark empty house and probably left,” he thought to himself. Sad and disappointed, Friar Martin knelt by his bed and began to pray. It was then that he had another vision. In this vision, Jesus appeared to him once again.
This time, Martin had words for him. “Lord! You promised to come visit me today! I set out my finest silver, cooked my only goose, and wore my best robe. You never came. Why did you pass me by?”
Jesus smiled. “Martin! I came to you three times today. First as a stranger in need of silver, then as widow in need of food, and finally as a child in need of warmth. Thank you Martin for welcoming me and celebrating Christmas with me!”
Like Friar Martin, we disciples of the second Advent are called to welcome Christ in the fabric of ordinary life. We are called to wait patiently for his coming even as we reach out to our neighbors in love. Knowing that Christ is always arriving to us, in us, and for us. We need only pay attention. Just as the old carol says:
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven
No ear may hear His coming
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive him still
The dear Christ enters in!