The Coming One
“Flee, be silent, pray always.”
These words were told to Abbot Arsenius when he prayed for salvation. He was born into a wealthy, Roman family in the 4th century. When he’d grown tired of the vanity of the world and life had brought him to his knees, Arsenius begged God to show him the way. God responded, “Flee, be silent, pray always.”
Today marks the second week of Advent, the season, every winter, when we’re challenged to step away from the world a little, to turn on the television less often, to increase our fasts, and mostly, to spend more quiet time with God. Our Sunday reading is from the Gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist is in prison, and he’s heard the news about Jesus Christ. So he sends two disciples to see if it’s true. They come to Jesus and ask, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Mat 11:30)
This is the question that should be ringing in our hearts through Advent.
“Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?”
The phrase in Greek is a little more telling. Σὺ εἶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ἢ ἕτερον προσδοκῶμεν.
This doesn’t translate very well in English. Sometimes it reads: “Are you the one who IS to come,” or “who WAS to come,” or perhaps, “the guy we’ve been waiting for.” But the Greek word, ἐρχόμενος, is much more potent. It isn’t referring to a single event in time, past, present or future, but to something eternal. Moreover, to the Jews, it’s a specific title of God. A better translation would read: “Are you the Coming One?”
The Coming One is the Word of God, which, in the beginning, came with all the atoms, molecules, and laws of physics to create the universe.
The Coming One is the God that Adam and Eve heard walking in the garden.
In his book of prophecies, Daniel writes, “I saw in the night visions…one like the Son of Man, the ‘Coming One,’ with the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13).
In Revelation, Jesus declares Himself the “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending…which is, and which was, and which is the ‘Coming One’” (Rev 1:8).
Furthermore, God’s Coming has a specific meaning in the scriptures: it refers to revelation, judgment, and purification. Malachai writes, “Who can abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For He is like a refiner’s fire…and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…he will purify …and refine” (3:2-3).
You can think of Jesus Christ like the rising sun.
Have you ever been outside before dusk? One winter, I spent every morning up in a deer loft, long before sunrise. I was hoping to bag a deer – and it was just my luck that I never saw a single deer. Instead, I witnessed something better. In a twinkling of an eye, the world is lit by the slightest gleam of light. Then a little more and a little more…finally, you see the first rays of the sun and the whole earth starts to change. The ice in the stream melts, the mud hardens, and the plants begin to perk up. You can almost hear the world whispering, “The sun is coming. The coming one is here. Night is gone. Everything is new.”
This is what it means that Jesus Christ is the “Coming One.”
He is coming, and His coming means a change. He is light, which banishes darkness and illuminates goodness. He is fire, which burns up ugliness and refines beauty. And He comes gently. The sun gives the world time to get ready. But before we know it, everything will be revealed. Are you ready?
John’s disciples asked Jesus, “Are you the Coming One?” Jesus answered saying, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Mat 11:4-6). We can ignore God for a little bit, while it’s still dusk, but only for so long. A day will come when we’ll be held accountable for everything. When we see God, will we be offended? Are you ready?
This is what Advent is all about.
This season arrives every year, when it’s darker and cooler outside, so that we can take some time to go within. What have you been hiding in your heart? Can you give it to Him? What is ugly? Can you expose it? What is impure and embarrassing? Can you trust God to take it and change you?
Jesus Christ is the Coming One, not just on that first Christmas Day in Bethlehem, and not merely at the end of the world and the final judgment. Jesus Christ is the Coming One in your life, at this moment, and every moment of every day, knocking and searching the heart.
I began by mentioning Abbot Arsenius. The advice God gave him somehow couldn’t be more appropriate at Advent. “Flee, be silent, pray always.”
FLEE: that is, don’t get tugged along by the world, the commercials, the responsibilities. It all seems so important at the moment. But it’s not. The Coming One is Coming. We all have to flee. That is, we all have to detach our hearts a little from the world.
BE SILENT: once we’ve detached from the world, we have to attach to God. That can only happen by being silent. It’s in silence that you encounter yourself and encounter God.
PRAY ALWAYS: notice that God doesn’t say, “Pray always, be silent, and flee.” That’s how we usually treat prayer. Our hearts and minds are wrapped up in our busy lives and we wonder why we can’t pray. But we have it backwards. We have to flee first, then be silent, and then, in that state of stillness, we can enter into our prayer.
The Coming One is Coming. Listen for Him.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.