Gospel reading from Matthew 24, 36-44
‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 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, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
As we change to the purple of Advent we also change gospels; we now focus on Matthew’s gospel, and today we are in the fifth section of teaching, which is about the Day of the Lord.
All three of Matthew, Mark and Luke have extended sections on this, and all three passages are difficult to make complete sense of. It is not made easier when the section chosen for the Sunday reading is only a part of the longer teaching passage. We begin at v36 where Jesus seems to be talking about the final inbreaking of the Kingdom, whereas the previous verses hav been more about the imminent destruction of Jerusalem
Advent – as we know- means “arrival” or “coming” and in Advent we focus both on the first coming of Jesus, the incarnation of God into our world (Christmas as we call it), and on the future coming of Jesus in glory. That it will happen our Scriptures are confident; when it will happen our Scriptures are equally clear that we do not and will not know. We do not live in constant anxiety, as it were with an emergency suitcase packed, but we should live with the definite knowledge that this earth and this life and this history are temporal, so that we are not taken by surprise (as the house-owner was by the night-time burglar) and so that we do not lose sight of what is more important. meanwhile we also engage with “history” around us, seeking to discern what God is saying, what we should do, what we should speak against.
God has given us a wonderful world, and wants us to make the most of the life we have here; we should continue to work for the well-being of our churches and communities and world, because the “end” may not be for a long time. It is in our living and how we live that we either show the love of God, share the peace of God, stand up for the Kingdom and justice and truth, because they matter, or we do not.
A slightly different way to look at this might be to ask if we are excited for the coming of God in glory? Is it the most wonderful thing, or would it be nuisance to our work, or our plans, the ultimate disruption!!?
We work for the Kingdom, we witness to the Kingdom, but we also know that at times apathy, evil, greed, selfishness etc may triumph or appear to triumph. We need to stay awake, alert, and aware.
Revd Peter Reiss