The original ‘idea’ of Advent was to provide a solemn preparation - a ‘fast’ - before the festivities of Christmas. To prepare to celebrate the first coming of Jesus, Christians were invited to reflect on his Second Coming, ‘in glorious majesty, to judge the living and the dead’. So the great Advent themes, in what was essentially a penitential season of the Church Year, became what were known as the ‘last things’ - death, judgment, heaven and hell. Admittedly, modern-day Christians are a bit less robust, and prefer to concentrate on what might appear to be a less disturbing aspect of the faith! So it is quite rare nowadays to find a church where the traditional Advent themes genuinely pervade the atmosphere in what is often referred to as ‘the run-up to Christmas’.
For the Christian there is a future dimension to death and that is why we can talk about it. For the believer it is impossible to think of death as a terminus, a point of completion, with- out at the same time thinking of it as a gate or bridge into something new, beautiful and infinite.
Since our Lord submitted to death, hints in the Hebrew scriptures of the great resurrection truths which were fulfilled in Jesus, became a central part of the New Testament Gospel. So in Advent it is necessary to look at what Jesus himself said about death and the future, as well as St. Paul’s charter on resurrection, in 1 Cor. 15.
And so, although we are dealing here with death, a subject which many people would de- scribe as morbid and depressing, for the Christian, we are suffused with hope. Today, per- haps more than ever before, with all manner of daft fantasies being offered to gullible peo- ple about the End of Time, God’s jamboree gathers steam and the Lord’s call is simple and direct: “Lift up your hearts, Advent people!” Let us genuinely lift them up to the Lord.
Human destiny in God’s purpose is not the grave but the fullness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.