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December 24, 2017: What Are We Preparing For?

by Mother Cameron

O Come Emmanuel BookI love Advent hymns. They are some of my favorite things about Advent. Most are satisfying to sing – they have good tunes and strong texts. I often sing them to myself later in the week. I think I also love them because we sing them only four weeks in the year. So when I open the hymnal on the First Sunday in Advent, it feels a little like seeing old friends I haven’t seen in a while.

“Lo! He comes with clouds descending” (numbers 57 and 58 in the Hymnal 1982, although I much prefer the tune of 57) is a classic Advent hymn. I’m pretty sure I’ve sung it every Advent in every Episcopal church I’ve gone to over the course of my life. And if I somehow missed the Sunday my parish sang it in church, I usually made up for it by singing it on my own. 

I was prompted to think more deeply about this hymn after reading a meditation about it from a book  by Gordon Giles. I knew that it was about the second coming of Christ, but I have to admit that I hadn’t really thought about the hymn text until I was prompted by the meditation.

This hymn, written by Charles Wesley, is based on the apocalyptic imagery in the books of Revelation, Matthew, Zechariah, and Daniel. It describes Christ’s return in majesty at the end of time and perfectly fits the Advent theme of preparing for the second coming of Christ. And yet, as much as I love singing this hymn, I must admit that I forget about Advent being a time to prepare for Christ’s second coming. All the attention on getting ready for the celebration of Jesus’ birth at Christmas, both in church and in the wider culture, makes it easy to overlook this other emphasis of Advent.

I wonder: Do I live in such a way that shows I believe the words of this hymn? We all know how to prepare for Christmas Day, but what does it really mean to prepare for the second coming of Christ? Will doing so change how I approach the celebration of Christmas? I don’t have answers to these questions yet. I need to continue living and wrestling with them. Let me know what insights you have, and we can think about them together. 

Last Published: December 21, 2017 8:09 AM
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