One great love-worthy thing about the traditional Advent season is the way it runs together the first coming of Christ with the second coming.
Take this hymn, for example. It opens with the announcement of Christ’s return. Is this an announcement of his coming at the end of the ages? Or is it an announcement post factum est, as we imagine ourselves in the world before Christ, waiting for his first coming?
And how distinct are those comings, in the last analysis?
On Jordan’s Bank
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
Announces that the Lord is nigh;
Awake and hearken, for he brings
Glad tidings of the King of kings.
Then cleansed be every breast from sin;
Make straight the way for God within,
Prepare we in our hearts a home
Where such a mighty Guest may come.
For thou art our salvation, Lord,
Our refuge and our great reward;
Without thy grace we waste away
Like flowers that wither and decay.
To heal the sick stretch out thine hand,
And bid the fallen sinner stand;
Shine forth and let thy light restore
Earth’s own true loveliness once more.
All praise, eternal Son, to thee,
Whose advent doth thy people free;
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Ghost for evermore.
~ Charles Coffin, 1736; trans. John Chandler, 1837