‘The coming of our God, our thoughts must now employ.” These words set the tone for our approach to Christmas.

The famous Advent sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux helps us to grasp their full meaning. He says that there are three comings of Christ for which we must be ready: the first coming of Christ, in the flesh, in time; his second coming at the end of time; and a third coming which “lies between the other two. It is invisible, while the other two are visible.”

He makes his meaning clear with these words:

In the first coming he was seen on earth, dwelling among men; he himself testifies that they saw him and hated him. In the final coming all flesh will see the salvation of our God, and they will look on him whom they pierced. The intermediate coming is a hidden one; in it only the elect see the Lord within their own selves, and they are saved. In his first coming our Lord came in our flesh and in our weakness; in this middle coming he comes in spirit and in power; in the final coming he will be seen in glory and majesty.

In this way St Bernard opens the full scope of our Advent preparation and the richness of our Christmas celebration.

In fact, in these words he lays before us a panorama of our Christian discipleship.

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