During Advent the Church asks us to look in two directions: back toward the dawning of salvation, when God’s only Son came to dwell among us; and forward, to the day when he will return in glory. As we look back, Our Lord wants to remind us that he has been with us at every step of our lives, protecting and guiding us. There has never been a time when we were alone and isolated from him. Like the pillar of fire and cloud of smoke that guided and protected the Hebrews, he has always been watching over us. And now, as we look to the future, he wants to give us a deeper longing for “that day” when God will renew his creation and remove everything that separates us from him.
Looking back and looking forward like this will produce in us the same conviction that the centurion had in today’s gospel: Our Lord exercises all authority over heaven and earth and he demonstrated this authority when he preached the Gospel, forgave sins, cast out demons, and calmed the angry seas.
But all that didn’t end when Our Lord ascended into heaven. As our cloud of smoke and pillar of fire, Our Lord is still able to heal, to deliver, and to bring peace. Nothing is beyond his ability. He is worthy of our complete trust.
Our Lord didn’t come just for the men and women of the first century. He didn’t come just for Mary and John the Baptist and Peter and James. He came for each and every one of us. He came to extend his loving authority over our lives and to bring us with him into the promise of his kingdom. He who came once in the flesh is prepared to come again, and at every moment to be with us and to give us a share in the riches of his grace and power.