Advent brings our wandering attention back to the four Last Things; death, judgement, hell and heaven. In Advent we look up towards the transcendental horizon from whence Christ the Lord will return.

The coming of the Lord is contemplated under a double focus. First we are assailed by St John the Baptist, the Lord’s stern and uncompromising precursor. John warns us of judgement and urges us to repentance with his fiery denunciations. Brood of vipers! Flee from the wrath to come!

When the Lord returns He will judge the human race in omniscient detail. Under His penetrating gaze no single detail of any single human life will be overlooked. The Judge will deal with each case in its totality. Nothing will be covered up. Things that were whispered in secret will resound for all to hear.

That unnerving prospect is mitigated by the fact of God’s mercy. Before we have to face the Almighty as Judge we meet Him first as Saviour. As Advent advances, John the Baptist’s stern warnings meld into something more consoling. On Gaudete Sunday (Advent 3) the austere seasonal purple lightens into rose-pink, and the joy of preparing to celebrate the Lord’s nativity need no longer be held back.

The maternal warmth of our blessed Lady supersedes the disconcerting tirades of the Baptist. We shall leave the dreary desert and turn our steps to Bethlehem where the Mother of Messiah is about to give birth. Even as we rejoice in the Lord’s first coming, the distant horizon of His final return somehow rushes forward to meet us. We can say that Christ will return, or we can say that we shall arrive. However we picture it, contingency and transience will fade away like the morning mist, caught up into that ultimacy and transcendence which all men call God.

When Christ does return, all those ingenious inter-faith speculations about God which have blinded and deceived so many will finally be clarified. They will be clarified by the splendour emanating from the glorified countenance of the God-man Jesus of Nazareth. Every eye shall see Him and in that moment of seeing Him all blinkers and cataracts will fall away. False religions will collapse back into the unreality from which they had been so erroneously fabricated. Every knee shall bow.

It really is time to put aside childish things, time to stop pretending. Let’s just get on with reality: Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal Son of God, and His Kingdom will have no end.