“What other time or season can or will the Church ever have but that of Advent!” exclaimed Karl Barth.
Looking back to the salvific revelation of the astounding Grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus, the Church is fortified to look forward towards the glorious and magnificent second Advent of the Lord of everything. Like the ancient Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and time, Janus, who with his two faces looks both to the past and the future, the Church is torn between the things already accomplished and things yet to come. The Body of Christ lives and struggles in between the historical revelation of God and historical expectation/anticipation of the second Advent.
The Church in its tradition (especially in the Lutheran way of preaching) always celebrated three Advents.
Adventus redemptionis: the incarnate Christ and His death at the Cross
Adventus sanctificationis: the presence of Christ in Word and sacraments
Adventus glorificamus: the coming in glory as our Judge.
The militant Church today struggles to maintain the relationship with God through Christ’s continuing Presence/Spirit. Adventus sanctificationis seems to be the crucial deep experience of God’s unique spiritual Presence as the fruit of historical redemption of Adventus redemptionis constantly awaiting Adventus glorificamus. Sanctification through the Holy Spirit, therefore, belongs to the realm of the constant battlefield against different forms of temptation (individual and personal as well as communal). Drifting away is always the possibility of the individual and the community. Oil lamps can always run dry. For this reason, God constantly reminds the Church to stay focused on the glorious accomplishment of Christ in the past (through justifying faith) and His promises of the glorious future (through patient hope). The Church, through the Spirit, needs to listen attentively and follows the instruction of the Lord. Its very life and existence depend on this.
The Spirit of God as the only power of the sanctifying Advent re-tells to the Church that hope and the promise of the Second Advent make sense only if the body of Christ proclaims and lives the genuine Gospel today. Community is inspired to produce the common good only if it has the fullness of the Spirit. We are tired of exhortations in preaching. Biblical preaching is based on promises and hopes. Otherwise, our hearers will feel defeated, powerless, weak, and disappointed. The second Advent becomes relevant and transformed into the sanctifying Advent now and today. After all, don’t we have only today as an opportunity to experience His Presence?
The sanctifying Advent today is the unexpected and surprising spiritual call followed by the transformation into the image of the One who has come and who is coming again. The Church cannot control the timing and manner of this sanctifying Presence. The Spirit through God’s Word is in control, not the Church. The Church listens in the hope of His promises.
Concerning social justice, this sanctifying Advent generates the power and meaning of serving others. The Advent of the Holy Spirit and the experience and worship of true God today does not make the Church arrogant and conceited. The institutional power and absolute doctrinal certainty are bypassed by the unanticipated sanctifying Spirit as the Gospels portray. The Gospel is for the poor?! (Luke 4:18). Human ego, riches, power, interpretations, and actions are just frictions on His glorious path of liberation. His unforeseen arrival defies reason and tradition.
For those who listen and act, God makes the Church a humble and serving instrument for the common good. He calls her to cooperate. He has been doing the work for a long time. The Spirit of the sanctifying Advent points to the ignored reality of and by the poor, oppressed, sick, marginalized, rejected, banned—their sigh towards heaven becomes the holy sound of the sanctifying call to the Church to humbly provide open space for acceptance and embrace (no matter who sighs).
The sanctifying Advent provides room for all, including women, children, teenagers, different races, old and weak folks, foreigners, non-compliant members, etc. “My kingdom is not of this kosmos” says the Master. In His sanctifying Kingdom (Kingdom of Grace), the Church is gradually becoming self-aware, recognizing her identity. Not primarily as health institute, intellectual club, spiritual formation society, evangelistic fortress, institutional bastille, business corporation, doctrinal stronghold, Democratic propagandistic liberalistic company, or conservative Republican State-sponsored political supremacist clique, etc. The Church is the body of Christ, extension of His glorious and mysterious Body and Presence in this world (present, not hijacked by anyone or anything), crucified Body indeed for the world which saves. The sanctifying Advent of the mighty Spirit brings the Church to its Gethsemane and Calvary. Co-crucified with Christ, the Church stubbornly continues to proclaim and live equality, justice, adamant grace, unconditional love, and spiritual embrace (de-institutionalized democratic approach to governance?!). The Church lives Christ-like moral standards as the natural result of her spiritual bond with Christ, but she proclaims Grace of the Cross, not standards. As nobody, she hides behind the bleeding and glorified Somebody. Only as such, can she serve the poor.
The cost of discipleship and service reflects the cost of Christ’s redemptive Advent. The Sanctifying Advent, therefore, desires all from the Church. There will be no light of the Second Advent unless the Church belongs today to the One who loved the world and sinners to the point of dying for them. Simultaneously the Church is a living and dying Body of Christ. She lives in the light of the Life of the Second Advent and the Last Day resurrection, but it is also dying every day, inspired and prompted to serve the ungrateful and violent world and confused church institutions. The Sanctifying Advent is teaching that, like her Master, only if she gives all will receive all.
Social justice, therefore, means giving all to all because the Lord was, is and will be all in all.
Aleksandar S. Santrac, DPhil, PhD, is lead pastor of the Chesapeake Conference, Columbia, MD. He is also extraordinary researcher and professor of dogmatics and dogma and church history at the Unit for Reformation Theology and Advancement of South African Society, North – West University, South Africa; online tutor for graduate studies in dogmatics, philosophy, and ethics at the Greenwich School of Theology, UK; and member representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Observer) to the Faith and Order Commission, National Council of Churches.
Photo by Fubar Obfusco on Wikimedia Commons.
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 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/3.1 (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1961), 322.
 Fleming Rutledge, Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 5.