“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
Our Church Year begins with Holy Scripture’s conclusion. The Church’s celebration of the Saints Triumphant and its recognition of Christ’s second coming in the end times smoothly leads us to Advent, the time of waiting for our Savior’s coming—past, present, and future—and the time of repentance in anticipation of His coming.
This stands in stark contrast to the secular world’s celebration of the new year, a time of raucous partying to ring in another year full of anticipation and sincere resolutions to better oneself. Instead, Advent offers a quieter, humbler way to begin anew. In this way, we repent or turn from our sins and pray, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus!” We look to the Old Testament prophecies of when Israel expectantly awaited her Messiah. We look to Christ’s presence among us today in His Word and Sacraments. And we eagerly await His coming on the Last Day, when He will gather the faithful to Him in His kingdom.
Waiting for Christmas
The commercialized Christmas of the secular world does not want us to wait. Stores are happy to take our money now. A tension exists between the Church’s more solemn time of Advent and the secular world’s frantic pushing of holiday lights and decorations at us in October. The Church, not seeking to gain material wealth, knows that waiting is good. Waiting during Advent is hopeful, but it is also repentant. We are preparing for Christmas not by purchasing decorations and presents but by preparing our hearts for Christ by turning from our sinful deeds.
The waiting and repentance of Advent is reflected in its music and hymnody. As the Church, we don’t yet hear the celebratory music of Christmas. Instead, the music of Advent is a plea for Christ to come: “Savior of the nations, come” (LSB 332:1). It is a summons to ready ourselves for His coming through repentance, a turning from our sins: “Cast away the works of darkness, All you children of the day!” (LSB 345:1). It is hopeful music, brimming with expectant joy—but through it all, we are still waiting. It is certain of the coming Messiah, but it is not yet rejoicing that He is arrived.
Joy at Christ’s Coming
When Christmas Day finally arrives, we are all the more joyful for having prepared not only material goods but also our hearts for the King. We are ready to worship at His manger. The music of Christmas Day expresses the joy of the festival: “Hail, O ever-blessed morn! Hail, redemption’s happy dawn! Sing through all Jerusalem: ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’” (LSB 373:R). And the festival does not end after that day. We do not turn off the Christmas music on December 26. Instead, we celebrate for twelve days!
Just as we rejoice on Christmas at the remembrance of Christ’s birth—the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies—we also rejoice throughout the year that Christ continues to come to us in His Word and Sacraments, offering us forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And as we now recognize the End Times on this upcoming final Sunday of the Church Year, we pray earnestly, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Come and free us from the darkness of sin and death! After all, the season of Advent is more than preparation for Christmas. It is preparation for us to wait and wait and wait our whole lives for Christ’s second coming.
Rejoicing at Christ’s Second Coming
The music on that Last Day will far exceed anything we experience on Christmas Day or at anytime in our earthly lives. For the music of that day will show forth complete joy that is without end. “Joy to the world” indeed! As we will hear on Sunday, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). This will be joy without end—not for another Christmas Day that comes and goes but for the final coming of Christ, when He will reign for all eternity and make all things new.
Quotations marked LSB are from Lutheran Service Book, copyright © 2006 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Reflect on Christ’s coming through song as you prepare to celebrate during Advent and Christmas worship services.