Waiting for Advent at the Lord’s Supper

(Note: this piece was delivered as a meditation at the Lord’s Supper for my church. I have chosen to leave the style and address unaltered.)

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)

For just a moment, I want us to ponder that final phrase, “until he comes.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

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The modern American Christmas season can feel like it’s all about shopping. But the traditional Advent season has never been about shopping, but about waiting. The mood of Advent season is one of expectation. We’re reminded of how Luke’s Gospel described old Simeon as a man who was “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), along with all those like the holy Anna who were “waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Waiting for Israel’s consolation. Waiting for Jerusalem’s’ redemption. Advent season reminds us that there was once a time—a very long time in fact—when God’s people were waiting for Messiah to come.

You ask, “What does this have to do with the Lord’s Supper?” Simply this: the Lord’s Supper reminds us—and reminds us regularly—that what Simeon  and Anna and all the Old Testament saints were waiting for, we no longer have to. The Word became flesh, and Simeon held him in his arms (John 1:14; Luke 2:28). And here in a moment we will hold in our hands a sacramental reminder of what we don’t have to wait for. It is finished. His body has been broken. His blood has been shed. One sacrifice for all time and our sins are forever forgiven. 

In one sense the Lord’s Supper is not about waiting and hoping, but about remembering and believing.

 

And yet…

And yet the Lord’s Supper is about waiting. Because according to sacred Scripture, there is not simply one advent, but two. And that is what the words “until he comes” remind us of.

Yes, the gospel says, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” But in a twist that would have mystified Simeon, the gospel also says “the Lord is come and gone.” He ascended into heaven, and heaven must receive him until the time for restoring all things (Acts 3:21), when “he comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found”—in the full and final sense (Rom. 8:19–23; Rev. 21:1–5).

Even now, the Lord’s Supper is still about waiting. Only now we wait for his second advent.

So as we eat this bread and drink this cup, let it be with a mood of expectation. This meal is but the dress rehearsal. For as surely as Christ came and paid our dowry, and as surely as he has gone away to prepare a place for us, so surely he will come again and receive us to himself (John 14:2–3). We will sit down with our Husband in the kingdom of God, we will eat the marriage supper of the Lamb, and there will be no more waiting.

Do you believe that?

Then brothers and sisters, let us eat this supper in hope. For not only has Advent come, Advent is coming.

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