Amidst all the hurrying and scurrying and merchandising of December, it is too easy to forget that Advent should be about preparing for the Second Advent of Christ along with preparing to celebrate rightly His First Advent at Christmas.
A message that we forget even more during Advent — or don’t even notice in the first place — is that we should prepare for opposition.
Yes, I freely admit that Christians preparing for opposition does not sound very Adventy. But time and again in Scripture, passages about the Advents of Christ let us know there has been and will be opposition to those Advents and to the people who welcome Christ. In a profound way, opposition to Christ and to the “body of Christ,” the church, are one and the same.
Revelation ch. 12 joins opposition to Christ to persecution of His church. When the dragon in the vision fails to devour the “child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” he turns his predations toward the woman, whom is widely interpreted to be the church. Verse 17 is more explicit that, failing to devour Christ, he will try to devour His people:
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 2 focuses on world authorities raging and conspiring against the rule of Christ. God laughs at them then informs them that Christ will rule regardless. Furthermore, He will smash them in pieces should they not repent in time. This is such an important Psalm about the victorious Christ overcoming opposition that Handel devoted four movements to it in his Messiah then immediately followed it with the Hallelujah Chorus.
At first glance, Psalm 2 is about Christ’s glorious Second Advent — and it is. But the early church applied this to his First Advent also as we see in Acts ch. 4. And they linked the opposition to Christ that led to His Passion to persecution of His people. So for what did the church pray for in the midst of persecution? Did they pray for the ability to be quiet and avoid persecution?
No. “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness….” (4:29)
So preparing for opposition does not mean timidity. But we still must prepare. For Scripture again and again warns us that there was, is and will be opposition to Christ and His people. It intensified after his birth, leading to the slaughter of the Holy Innocents, intensified again at His Passion and crucifixion and was followed by three centuries of waves of persecution against the church. And that the opposition will intensify yet again before and at His Second Coming. Psalm 2 and Revelation ch. 19 lets us know that, when He returns, the rulers of this world will not form a welcoming committee but will instead still try to defeat Him and His people:
And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. (Rev. 19:19)
Trying to defeat Christ is insane, yes. But do we not see a lot of insanity from rulers (and those who elect them) already?
So part of preparing for Christ’s Second Advent is preparing for the opposition to it. Scripture does not alert us to the opposition again and again without reason.
Now all that is involved in preparing for opposition is too much for one post. Certainly we should do what we should be doing anyway: regular and frequent prayer, getting grounded and strengthened in the Scriptures and living them out, being deeply involved in the church, His people — the Christian life can hardly be lived alone, especially in the face of opposition. For some details of what some of this might look like, I heartily recommend Rod Dreher’s Live Not by Lies, in which I intend to lead a study group next year.
By all means use this Advent season to prepare to welcome Christ with love, now and at His return. That is the first priority. But also prepare for the decided lack of love, for the opposite of love, from the powers of this world towards Christ and His people. Then, having shared in His hardships, we shall share in His victory.