By Fr Martin Graham
Saint John the Baptist was the last of all the prophets; 2000 years after Abraham lived the coming of the Messiah was imminent. For the Jewish people the Messiah was to come in majesty and splendour and of course that didn’t happen, He was to come as a baby, He was to wear a crown of thorns, He was to reign from a Cross. To the Hebrews this was far from what they had imagined, this could not possibly be the way God had intended.
When the Year 2000 was approaching the whole notion of the Second Coming was to be found in Hollywood films, books, and a variety of other places. The subject has, for a long time, captivated the human imagination and almost all the poems and prophecies, songs and stories foretell the Second Coming as a wretched day, a day filled with death, a day of disaster and destruction. Shortly after the bloodbath of the First World War and the turmoil that followed it W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called ‘The Second Coming’ and in it he wrote, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold, Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand.”
Like the poem there have been many preachers who, when speaking of the Second Coming, present Our Lord almost as the enemy of humanity, as though we should resist His coming. True, we do not know when the Lord will come again – Saint Paul says that it will be when we least expect it, like a thief in the night. True, there will be no way for anyone to avoid it. True, the Lord will come to judge us in justice. True, unlike His First Coming all humanity will know for certain that He has returned. True, when faced with all these facts then it is only natural that we could look upon that day with fear and dread.
But, and it’s a big but, for all those who look towards God in faith, this should be a day of great hope, not dread. The Liturgy constantly encourages us to look with joy and hope for the coming of our Saviour. Saint Augustine once wrote, “What sort of love of Christ is it to be afraid of His coming?” Surely it is a contradiction to profess our love for God and our faith in Him, yet, fear His coming. Saint Augustine quotes the First Book of Chronicles, “…all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord for He comes to judge the Earth.” The Second Coming is the day that we, the Children of the Light, will receive the salvation promised us, so with the trees and with all creation we should welcome Him with shouts of joy.
As Children of the Light, the day of judgement should not cause us to fear. Let us remember that, He who comes to judge us has lived among us; He has loved us and walked with us, He is one of us. Let us not give in to panic and chaos, but let us listen out and hear the words of Christ, “It is I, do not be afraid” and rejoice that our salvation is near.