Come, Lord Jesus, come and stay forever

By Deacon Bob Ellis, National Coordinator

“Joy to the world; the Lord is come.” Did you ever wonder why the word “is” rather than “has”? After all, He has already come over 2,000 years ago. During Advent we are said to be anticipating His coming. Might it be better to say we’re anticipating the commemoration of His having come with the celebration of Christmas? Since Jesus chose to remain with us in the Holy Eucharist, He is always here. So might it be more appropriate to say that Christmas is the commemorative celebration of the day on which He first came. All this can be a bit confusing. Still it’s worth pondering, and this is an Advent reflection.

Let’s consider first that the Son of God became man and came into the world over 2,000 years ago. So yes, He has already come. We know as well that He has remained with us residing in all of the tabernacles of the world even though He also ascended into heaven. So even though He left, He really didn’t. He has been and is here with us. So why do we say so often during Advent – especially in the Divine Office – Come, Lord Jesus, come?

I think we will find it helpful to distinguish between His coming into the world for all of mankind and His coming to each of us individually. The universal celebration on the 25th of December every year of His coming that we call Christmas commemorates that historical day two millennia ago when He came for all of mankind. But, in consideration of His coming to each of us individually, should each of us not be asking ourselves whether or not He’s come to us?

Of course, at least to all the baptized, He has come. He came “for everyone” historically, but He came “to each baptized individual” on their baptismal day. So, if we’ve been baptized, why do we keep asking Him to come again? It’s because we keep sending Him away. Venial sins begin a gradual process of pushing Him out the door. Mortal sins kick Him out completely. So when we say “Come, Lord Jesus,” we’re changing our minds. If He’s half way out the door, we’re saying no, stop, don’t leave. Come on back in. If He’s gone completely and the door is closed, we’re reopening the door and begging Him to return.

Another aspect of His coming to us individually is whether or not, except for the period between our baptism and the age of reason, we’ve ever really allowed Him to come in completely. And if we have, how long is it before we begin edging Him out the door again. This leads us into contemplation of the penitential aspect of the season.

It seems to me we err when our dispositions are allowed to be predominantly anticipatory, rather than prayerful and penitential. Some thoughts about the meaning of the word Christmas will be helpful in this regard.

Let’s consider first what it is we say when we utter the word Christmas. The word Christmas originates in the Old English expression Cristes maesse, which translates into Christ mass, or the Mass of Christ. The word Christ is an adjective which means anointed. It is not a name. So our Savior’s name is not Jesus Christ, and this is why you hear some refer to Him as Jesus, the Christ meaning, Jesus the anointed one. The word Mass in religious usage equates with death sacrifice. This is why we use the phrase the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is a sacrifice because it places us at the foot of the cross on Calvary. It is holy because of the One offering the sacrifice.

We are privileged to participate in the sacrifice, and we do so by virtue of uniting our prayers and penitential sacrifices to that ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. We should ask ourselves how well we prepare for Mass each Sunday. During Advent we ought to be doubling or tripling down on that preparation through the quantity and depth of our prayers and sacrifices. Our success in doing this will depend largely on which disposition we are able to maintain as primary – the penitential or the anticipatory.

It may seem a little odd to go around gleefully saying Merry Christmas to people before and during the Christmas Season because what we are saying is Merry Death of Christ. The foot of the cross is normally considered a place of horror, sorrow and mourning. What is there to celebrate they ask?

The horror, sorrow and mourning were the emotional reactions of those who knew Jesus, and while we empathize with them in the temporal sphere of life, in the eternal order Jesus’ death was a glorious and triumphant victory with profound impact on the individual life of every member of the human race who ever lived and will live on this earth. Therefore, we ought to be filled with great appreciation—and merriment is entirely in order.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come all the way in and stay forever.

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