By Canon Francis Omondi

Preparation for Christmas so often obscure the message of Advent. Yet this is the season that gives it its meaning. Advent Reminds us that as Christians we live in-between worlds, the was , the is to come and the now.

Advent is often seen as the time we reflect on both the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time and the first coming of Christ as a babe in Bethlehem. The popularity and secularisation of Christmas so easily obscure import of the season.

We are thus made aware of the bi-culturtal world we find ourselves inhabiting. One that Advent actually helps us to reflect upon and live out authentically.

The audience of the prophet Malachi, received his message of the first Advent with the similar skepticism the second coming is perceived today.

Even though the people were back in the land and their temple was rebuilt, they were out of fellowship with their God.

The announcement :“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1).

This announcement was in His response to the questions the prophet said the people asked in Malachi 2:17. The two basic questions asked were : “Wherein have we wearied him (God)?” and “Where is the God of judgment?”
The fact is, they were tiring God. They believed that all of God’s threats of judgment were just empty words. By asking those two questions, the people were accusing God of favoring those who were doing evil, even calling upon Him to show His judgment or justice as if He couldn’t.

Many Christians have found themselves asking for the Lord’s coming, but to avenge the atrocities they suffered.
Throughout the world Christians are experiencing great pressure from persecution. Journalist John Allen sees followers of Jesus as “indisputably…the most persecuted religious body on the planet.” So he writes in his latest book, The Global War on Christians (Random House, 2013), which cites such authorities as the International Society for Human Rights, noting that the group identifies 80 percent of religious freedom violations worldwide as targeting Christians.
Also Nina Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, pointed out in an interview with Newsweek, Christian minorities in many majority-Muslim nations have “lost the protection of their societies.” This is especially so in countries with growing radical Islamist (Salafist) movements. In those nations, vigilantes often feel they can act with impunity—and government inaction often proves them right. The old idea of the Ottoman Turks—that non-Muslims in Muslim societies deserve protection (albeit as second-class citizens)—has all but vanished from wide swaths of the Islamic world, and increasingly the result is bloodshed and oppression.
It will be erroneous to imagine that the global war on Christians is centrally organised. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.
The terror attacks, like the Garissa University attack by Alshabaab that left over 150 students dead for their being Christians, ought to be seen in this light.
How does He come to us in the face of these pressures?

12th century Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk, preached about the three comings of Christ.
We know that there are three comings of the Lord. The third lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible. In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

The third ‘coming’ then is the imminent and intimate presence of God in our lives.

Because this coming lies between the other two, it is like a road on which we travel from the first coming to the last. In the first, Christ was our redemption; in the last, he will appear as our life; in this middle coming, he is our rest and consolation.

Bernard or Clairvaux encourages his readers to rejoice in this third coming, to find joy and nurture in presence of Christ in our daily lives.

Keep God’s word in this way. Let it enter into your very being, let it take possession of your desires and your whole way of life. Feed on goodness, and your soul will delight in its richness. Remember to eat your bread, or your heart will wither away. Fill your soul with richness and strength.

Reflecting with Bernard of Clairvaux helps us cope with the challenges around us. As we ponder on the was-is-to-come-now-ness of Advent, of the incarnate God we have a sense that we are not alone and he shares our plight; Christ is our constant joy, strength, and consolation.

In the traditional Advent hymn, ‘Come thou long expected Jesus’, Wesley’s words echo and expand St Bernard’s. Here we sing of the coming birth of Jesus, the coming kingdom of freedom and the very present joy of our heart.

Francis Omondi is a clergy of All Saints Cathedral Diocese Nairobi.