Lo! He comes, with clouds descending, once for our salvation slain; thousand thousand saints attending swell the triumph of His train. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.2 Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty; those who set at naught and sold Him, pierced, and nailed Him to the tree, deeply wailing, deeply wailing, shall the true Messiah see.
3: Now redemption, long expected, see in solemn pomp appear! And His saints, by men rejected, coming with Him in the air. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! See the day of God appear!
4: Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the pow’r and glory, claim the kingdom for Thine own: O come quickly, O come quickly, Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!
Charles Wesley’s great hymn, first published in 1758 but not included in Methodist hymnals until 1831 is THE hymn on the Second Coming of Christ mixing stirring images from Revelation with a jolly tune which congregations enjoy singing. You can hear the hymnhere.
‘Immediately after the suffering of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven” with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Rejoice and Sing (no 12) and three of the four Communion liturgies suggested in Worship from the URC, include the words Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. These words are common to most Communion liturgies in the Church but, rather like the old Eastern European republics who put the inconvenient word “Democratic” in their titles, this aspect of our faith is rather ignored. In Advent we focus not just on the coming of Christ in Bethlehem all those years ago but also on His return at the end of time. It is easy to feel a bit queasy about this doctrine – after all the churches that seem to push it the most often seem to name the date – and then get rather disappointed as the day passes. After all, Jesus reminded us that no one knows the day nor the hour of his coming. Since the earliest days of the Church we have had this longing for Christ to return to put everything right. At times of persecution this has been a powerful idea to give hope – that justice will come.
In the largely religiously indifferent West we have lost sight of this idea yet it is as vital now as it ever was. Many won’t see justice this side of the grave; oppressors aren’t cast from their thrones but amass fortunes in Swiss bank accounts in case the day of reckoning comes quicker than they expect. International politics is about expediency – in the West we condemn the murderous actions of ISIS but don’t bat an eyelid at trading weapons with countries who support them; to quote Sir Humphrey the oily places are more pressing than the holy ones.
Yet when Jesus returns everything will be changed. Accounts will be settled, the Magnificat enacted, the oppressed will run free. Wesley sums this up in his powerful line: “Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him, robed in dreadful majesty.”
Yea, amen! Let all adore Thee, high on Thine eternal throne; Saviour, take the pow’r and glory, claim the kingdom for Thine own: O come quickly, O come quickly, Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!
The Rev’d Andy Braunston is a minister in the Synod of Scotland’s Southside Cluster serving Barrhead, Shawlands and Stewarton URCs.