The First Sunday in Advent; Year A (12/1/2013)

Texts:Isaiah 2:1-5 Psalm 122 (1) Romans 13:11-14 Matthew 24:36-44

Prayer of the Day: Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. By your merciful protection save us from the threatening dangers of our sins, and enlighten our walk in the way of your salvation, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

24.36 [Jesus said,] “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

St. Matthew 24:36-44. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Waiting for the End

We live in a world where wars, insurrections, earthquakes, famines and plagues are the norm. Newspapers, magazines, television, radio broadcasts, facebook, Twitter… they all bear news to us of the chaos that seems to reign in this world. Two weeks ago, we focused on these words from Jesus:

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name.”

I was asked if I think current events suggest these times have arrived. Could it be that after all these years, the kingdom of God is finally at hand? That is a valid question (although those “signs” have been almost constantly present ever since Jesus spoke these words).

 Yet this week’s text offers a different point of view. Here Jesus describes the days leading up to the conclusion of time as quite routine. Eating, drinking, marrying, giving in marriage… nobody will be able to tell that the end is approaching. Not the angels of heaven. Not even the Son. Only God will know when these things are about to take place.

There is a widely held belief that the Bible predicts just how the history of our world will draw to a close. This view holds that the answers are all there, if we are just able to read between the lines. I’m not convinced. As a matter of fact, I suspect Jesus is intentional in providing a variety of teachings and images about the end, because he doesn’t seem especially concerned about those kinds of matters. He seems far more concerned about the present than about the distant future. And whenever his listeners press him for information about the future, he seems to draw their attention back to the current day, and to their relationship with God. It is as if to say that the future holds no fear for the one who is right with God. If we are people of faith, the nature of the end is not important – only that God is there awaiting us.

This Sunday begins our Advent season of preparation, as Christmas draws near. Advent is a time of waiting for Christ’s arrival. We do so on three levels. We wait for his arrival in the celebration of his birth at the end of this month. We wait for his arrival in our lives, as he enters our hearts and graces our living. We wait for his arrival at the end of time, when we are promised that all of history will draw to a close. Our waiting is not a passive waiting – we wait by developing habits of discipleship and preparing a place in our hearts for a living faith. Our waiting is not a fearful waiting – we wait with joy and hope, as we anticipate being welcomed into God’s eternal presence.

Christ has promised to return. Whether it comes at the end of great tribulation, or like a thief in the night, people of faith are assured that this promise is good news. It is the One who loves us more than life itself who promises to return. It is the One who has broken the bonds of death who promises to return. It is the One who already has won the victory for us who promises to return. Let us wait and prepare for that One, with great hope and joy.

Amen.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What Biblical images do you recall about the end of time?
  2. What does it mean that neither the angels nor the Son will know when this time comes?
  3. Can an awareness of the eventual end of time be a positive factor in a believer’s discipleship?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Do I contemplate the end of time, or the end of my own life, with hope or fear?
  2. How can Jesus’ words be words of comfort for me?
  3. What can I do to prepare myself for the day of Christ’s return?