Monday, December 17, 2007


By Nathan Brown

Looking through our editorial library here at Signs recently, I was intrigued to discover a volume titled Writing for Adventist Magazines, published in the 1960s. It’s a topic in which I have some interest, so I dusted off the book and invested the necessary reading time.

I learnt a few things, received new perspectives on a number of aspects of writing and publishing, and was entertained by some of the now quaint projections for the future of publishing and communications.

But I was particularly struck by the following definitions of writing:

“Good writing builds a bridge to the reader, a bridge from the mind of the writer to the mind he hopes his message will enter. Good Christian writing builds a bridge from heart to heart. Good Adventist writing walks across the bridge and impels the reader to prepare immediately for the second coming of Jesus.”
Prompted by this formulation, I looked back through the editorial pages of Record—the magazine I work on—over the past few years. I was surprised to discover no editorials directly on the topic of the Second Coming.

It isn’t that the topic has been absent. It has been mentioned, assumed and part of other topics that have been written upon—and has also appeared elsewhere in our publications—but perhaps our editorial omission is an example of the taken-for-grantedness or even ambivalence surrounding Jesus’ promises to return. And that even when we do think on it, we struggle to grasp the certainty and reality of this climactic event.

It seems we need to put the Advent back into Adventist. And what better time to begin than in the season of Advent? Before Christmas became our annual festival of shopping and sacrifices to the gods of consumerism, many Christian traditions celebrated Advent—from December 1—as the beginning of the new liturgical year.

It is an appropriate time to reflect on the reality of God breaking into the history of our world. When celebrated thoughtfully, the sense of anticipation builds through the Advent season toward Christmas and the “coming”—originally, Advent calendars were about much more than a chocolate a day throughout December—reflecting the expectation that has surrounded faith in God throughout history.

To be a follower of God is to expect God to act to fulfill His promises of salvation and re-creation. That was the experience of those few who recognized Jesus for who He was. They had a vibrant expectation, a living hope based on the many Old Testament prophecies of God’s imminent intervention.

In Jesus, they recognized the reality of God’s action, presence and salvation. For example, when Jesus was presented at the Temple as a baby, the old man Simeon was content that his greatest hope in life had been fulfilled. “For my eyes have seen your salvation,” he said, “which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:30-32, TNIV).

We need to practice seeing God’s salvation and living with that kind of expectation. Perhaps the most important lesson in faithfulness to learn from the Christmas story is to expect God. Traditionally, the Advent celebrations have also included expectation of God’s future acts in history. The two events are inextricably linked.

By celebrating the reality of Jesus’ first coming, we point forward to His return. It is difficult to embrace the Jesus of history without at least considering His many promises to come again. And the connection between the two events was emphasized by the angels who comforted Jesus’ first disciples moments after His ascension: “This same Jesus . . . will come back” (Acts 1:11, emphasis added).

Ultimately, both these historic God acts—the incarnation and the Second Coming—are about Jesus. That’s why the writer of Hebrews describes Jesus as “the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He is the foundation and the hope, the beginning and the end. When we build our lives on Him and our relationship with Him, we can live with joyful expectation and a certain hope.

That’s what the advent in Adventist is about. Like Simeon, one day our eyes will see and our salvation will be complete.

“Oh, come. Oh come, Immanuel!”

1 comment:

  1. I love Advent! We were honored to have Nathan with us in church during the first Sabbath of Advent - just a few weeks ago. I am a believer that the celebration of Advent gives the Christian community a concrete practice in which to embody the conviction about the Second Coming. It's a way living into the belief in the Second Coming. Thanks, Nathan!