Walk in the Light
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24: 36-44
Advent—A time of waiting. This can mean many things for different people. May we be conscious of this as a community and help share in the waiting together and strive to find the wonder of the anticipation as a child laying beneath the tree gazing through the iridescence of the magical Christmas light.
With anticipation this first week of Advent, we find this curious text of waiting. As we long for the sentimental Talladega Nights “sweet little baby Jesus”, instead we begin with apocalyptic literature. As I scan the three years of our lectionary, there is a pattern of beginning Advent with parousia—eschaton—rather than Incarnation. Meanwhile, I am ready for “sweet little baby Jesus”. But what we want and what we need may be different. A good message to begin the season. A reminder that we live between the times. That waiting has multiple meanings. That Advent is waiting of ‘sweet little baby Jesus’. And like the Ford commercial that helps point out that it is not sweet ‘or’ sour chicken, but that we like the ‘and’. The season is anticipating the entering of God into humanity ‘and’ anticipating Christ’s return.
On one hand, we remember God’s promise to Israel of Immanuel—God with us. And on the other hand, we anticipate Immanuel returns as king of kings.
Living between the two is a gift. Jesus-warns of this day that will take us by surprise. Like a homeowner—unaware of the time of a thief that comes by night. Or like the time of Noah—where people were eating and drinking, marrying—following a pattern in the ordinary—the mundane.
This teaching is reiterated in three parables immediately following the morning’s text. The first, parable is of the ten bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom. When he arrives in the middle of the night, he receives the five who were prepared with enough oil. The second—a story of a master who leaves on a long journey and entrusts his servants with his money. Upon his return, he rewards the two who risked and grew the investment while condemning the one who buries the treasure. The third, again warns of judgment rewarding the ones—the sheep, who by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those imprisoned. By feeding, clothing, and visiting the least of these—they did this unto the Lord—all the while unaware. And those who did not feed, clothe, and visit—the goats—also unaware. Today along with the three parables conclude, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
There has been a lot of ink spilt and breath wasted in predicting the time. For some, this prediction is the rapture—left behind. This scenario I refer to as the evacuation model, the ejection seat justification for abdicating responsibility of caring for this creation. Others view this as the time of each individuals death—judgment seat where one stand before the court, God as judge. As defendant, we give an accounting of our life. What is the balance on the scale? What is good enough?
And for others, we can hear the response to the question of what would you do if this were your last day on earth? Many respond with scenarios of living in excess—going out with a party, thrill seeking—responses of going out with a bang—this is it.
But in Christ, there is another way. Our reading today encourages faith instead of apathy. It emphasizes hope instead of anxiety. At the quest of predicting, we are also reminded of the many times the disciples tried asking Christ for the details—when are you coming back? But Christ reframes the question. In stating that the angels don’t know, nor the Son of Man—he is asking what are you doing in the waiting? Rather than the trivial—how are you living in the mundane. In this time of eating and drinking, marrying—this is where faith happens. In our question to predict, crack the code, solve the puzzle—we are reminded that it is not about knowing everything—but is about the expectation to do something.
As Jesus speaks in parable, perhaps the point is less about a future judgment, but rather speaking to disciples on how they are living now. Each day, each moment, how are we responding in our freedom to the free gift of grace?
While holding together living in between the times, of anticipating God entering through the advent of a little child, and the second-coming that we proclaim today in the words of Christ as we gather around table together—how are we living in that new day in Christ each and every day through the lens of life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him”
(Matt. 25:44, TNIV).
During Advent we remember God’s promise to be with us—wholly and completely. And we wait for that promise to be fulfilled. But we don’t know the exact time: Jesus doesn’t always come according to our schedule.
Keep your eyes on the clock. Watch the seconds go by. Does time move fast or slow? Can you slow yourself down for a whole minute? Two minutes? How does it feel to just wait? Easy? Hard? Relaxing? Frustrating?
What are you waiting for? Are you watching? Are you ready?
 Reformed Worship, Erica Schemper, Sept. 2013 issue, Advent Prayer Stations. Advent Week 1.