Come, Thou Long-expected Jesus!

By Steve Manskar

Wesleyan leadership christ the king
Christ Pantocrator from Saint Catherine's Monastery in Sinai. Public domain

Advent is an opportunity for the church to be in, but not of, the world. We witness to Christ whose birth we celebrate in Christmas when Christians and the church fully celebrate the four weeks of Advent. The season is time to reflect, pray, and prepare for the coming of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, the King.

John Wesley frequently encouraged the Methodist preachers to “preach Christ in all his offices.” Christ is Priest, Prophet, and King. Christ the Priest assures us our sins are forgiven and relationship with God is restored. Christ the Prophet restores awareness of God’s law, which awakens us to our sin and need for forgiveness and directs us to Christ the Priest. And Christ the King leads us towards new life as citizens in God’s kingdom. He destroys the power of sin and sets us free to live and love as Christ lives and loves. Christ the King is also Christ the Physician who heals the sin-damaged soul. He restores wholeness in us that we may become the persons God created us to be.

Advent presents Christ the King who is coming to consummate God’s reign on earth as it is in heaven. The King who is coming is unlike any earthly ruler. He is the crucified Jesus Christ, the victim of imperial and religious fear. The One who is coming is the risen Savior and Lord of the Universe whose nature and name is Love. He sets the world free from the powers of sin and death. He sets the world free for self-giving, self-emptying love and justice.

Advent is a season for prayer, repentance, and preparation for the coming King Jesus. It is the annual opportunity for Christians to distinguish themselves from the world that worships the gods of commerce, greed, gluttony, violence, and fear. The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are ample witness to the world’s loyalty and devotion to all these gods. What if Christians observed a holy Advent by refusing to participate in the orgy of consumption the world presents as “Christmas”? What if Christians used these weeks to pray, worship, and live as faithful citizens of God’s kingdom by serving with the poor, the outcast, the prisoners, and the sick?

Observing a holy Advent helps Christians, and the world, understand the One whose birth we celebrate at Christmas is the crucified and risen Savior and Lord of the universe. He is Christ the King who leads his followers in his way of love and justice for the world he promises to set free from the powers of violence, fear, and injustice. He is the Great Physician to restores the people and the world to wholeness. He is Christ the Prophet who proclaims the Law of love and justice. He is Christ the Priest who assures forgiveness and restores the world to right relationship God.

In the shadow of the unspeakable events of this week (December 2) in San Bernardino, California Christians are called by Christ the King to respond with love and compassion to the victims of violence and their loved ones. We are called to be agents of peace and reconciliation for the community, nation, and world. Christ teaches his followers to respond to violence and fear with self-giving, self-emptying love. When our Muslim neighbors are threatened with violence and are the objects of hatred, Christians are called by King Jesus to reach out and embrace them with kindness and love.

In a world filled with fear and hatred, let the followers of Christ the King repent of our sin, turn away from fear and turn toward him and his love. Let us keep a holy Advent by living as ambassadors for Christ who is coming (2 Corinthians 5:16-20).