Amidst the onslaught of tinsel, Christmas sales, exhortations by ostensibly Christian politicians to spend more in order to save the economy and the renditions of “Mary, Did You Know?” blaring across entertainment systems, one would be forgiven for thinking that the infant Jesus had already come and perhaps even gone (and this is, of course, assuming that people still remember that was what Christmastide was about).
With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, one could easily forget that the period prior to the 25th December is the season of Advent. It is the period of waiting for the coming of Christ. It is for this reason that many Christian households set up or follow established traditions involving nativity sets or the use of Advent Calendars, with the arrival of the Incarnate Word as the culmination of this period of waiting.
This is understandable in the leadup to Christmas, but it is instructive to note that this is not the only coming of Christ that one remembers in Advent. For this season is also a time of remembering the final coming of Christ in the eschaton, where every tear will be wiped away, and the new heaven and new earth are instituted.
This remembrance of both comings of Christ is mentioned in a short but highly instructive interview with Alison Milbank
But this joint remembrance is acknowledged liturgically, as it is in the 6th-century introductory hymn of Lauds in the Liturgy of the Hours in the Roman Rite, where the nativity and the parousia are blurred into a single event (it is instructive to note that the Latin adventus is
Hark! a herald voice is calling
Through the shadows of the night
‘Cast away the dreams of darkness
Christ descends with heavenly light.’
Wakened by the solemn warning,
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, her sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.
Lo, the Lamb, so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiv’n;
So, when next he comes with glory,
And his judgement-day draws near,
Faithful he may find his servants,
Watching till their Lord appear.
Honour, glory, might, and blessing
To the Father and the Son,
With the everlasting Spirit,
While eternal ages run.