Scripture: Matthew 24:36-44
Let us pray:
O Most Holy, as we prepare for your coming, illumine these scriptures for us that we may learn the will of your heart. Guide us and teach us the way of everlasting, and keep us in the palm of your hand. Amen.
We begin a new liturgical calendar today, the first Sunday in Advent. The gospel that will be most featured throughout this year is the Gospel of Matthew.
Today’s gospel lesson is taken from the last portion of the book, considered an eschatological passage, or a teaching regarding end-times. Just what kind of end-times are we talking about here? Through the years, some traditions have considered it to be the end of the world. Others, the end of an age. Still others, the end of life as each individual knows it, explained as the moment of passing from this life into the next. Still others regard it as the moment we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts. Some have tried to synthesize parts of each perspective in their efforts to explain what the unexpected hour of the coming of the Son of Man is. Sometimes I wonder, though, if it’s not about any end-times as we might try to explain them, but more about concerning how we are to live in each moment we are given.
Jesus says in this teaching; “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Mt. 24:44)
“The Son of Man will come…” Jesus says; regardless of when that is or what it looks like. Part of Advent is indeed looking forward to the Second Coming of Christ – traditionally understood as a physical appearance when he comes with all the host of heaven as the true reigning monarch of the world: to judge all nations and bring them unto himself, creating a New Heaven and New Earth. “One will be taken, and one will be left,” Jesus teaches, even if we don’t know what he means.
“So you must also be ready…” Jesus says. He has asked us to be ready, but what does readiness look like if we don’t really know what a New Heaven and a New Earth looks like? How do we respond to this command to be ready? Commentator David Bartlett writes, “Faith, hope, and memory all help draw us toward Christian responsibility.” He goes on to remind us the next chapter of Matthew’s gospel follows with three stories clarifying that readiness means,
“[Keeping] awake to the needs of others…. One day Jesus may appear in the clouds, suddenly, like a thief in the night. But before that – as Matthew reminds us – Jesus will appear just around the corner, suddenly, like a hungry person, or a neighbor ill-clothed, or someone sick or imprisoned. “Therefore [we] also must be ready.””
If we are to truly emulate our Lord, then his example for us is this: we are called to a spirit of wakefulness; thus in the every-day work of our lives, we should be both aware and prepared to respond to opportunities given to us to serve the purposes of God.
One way to do that is to welcome new members into the community of faith, and to elect, equip, and ordain capable leaders to assist our community in discerning the will of God for us as we live, work, and worship together. Today we celebrate these occasions in our worship. As we prepare ourselves for this joyous event, let us also look to the message we proclaim, the life we witness together as disciples of the One who has been revealed to us, whom we commemorate yet again with Advent and Christmas, the One who lived and died and rose again for us. Are you ready?
 “First Sunday in Advent” Feasting on Word (A) David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, General Editors. Copyright © 2010 Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0
Questions for Reflection
What does it mean to “get your house in order” for the coming of the Lord? Can we ever be perfectly ready for Christ’s return? Why is the coming of the Lord compared to a thief in the night? Is there grace in God’s surprising advent, God’s unexpected arrival?
Household Prayer: Morning
Lord God, you have woken me from sleep; the night is gone, the day is here. Enable me to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and help me to live honorably this day, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
God, my Savior, you are even nearer now than when I first learned to trust in you. Help me to lay aside the burdens of the day and rest in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, my strength and my salvation. Amen.