Matthew 24.36-44: “But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows. As it was in the time of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Human One. In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark. They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that. At that time there will be two men in the field. One will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left. Therefore, stay alert! You don’t know what day the Lord is coming. But you understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. Therefore, you also should be prepared, because the Human One will come at a time you don’t know.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent! It also marks the first day of the churches new year. This is the time of the year that the followers of The Way of Jesus prepare for his coming...the first time.
As the baby in the manger?
Yeah. That coming.
But the Lectionary reading also brings up the idea of Christ’s “Second Coming.” The word “advent” is an anglicized word of the Latin word adventus which means “coming.” Adventus is itself a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or “arrival” or “royal visit.” It’s associated with Christ’s “Second Coming,” thus the reason for the passage above. But the “Second Coming” is not the context of this chapter.
This chapter (coming directly from the thrashing of the Religious Elite in the previous chapter and leading into the many stories about the “coming” in the following chapter) is about the soon coming war with Rome and the destruction of the city and Temple (see verses 1-3). The people of the Bible believed that the war with Rome was a “coming” of Yahweh in judgment upon Israel.*
But I get it. I mean, there are several places in the passage above that talk about the unknownness of the war (we have the great privilege of looking back with 20/20 vision). Of being prepared at any given moment because no one knew for certain when it would take place.
But maybe there’s more to it than that. Maybe the point is that we need to be prepared for the coming of Christ in the most unexpected ways—including war, disease, famine, and yes, even death. Maybe the whole point is, like he says in verse thirty-six above, no one knows for certain when Christ is coming in the day-to-dayness of life. I think a better way of saying that is maybe the warnings aren’t necessarily about the “coming” of Christ so much as they’re about our own awakening to his presence. Maybe the whole point is being prepared for that moment when our hearts are opened to G_d’s presence in the now. Right where we’re at.
Are we expecting to find Christ in every moment of our jobs? While we’re driving our children to school? When we’re standing in line at the grocery story? When we’re at home with our partners? How about in our most intimate moments? Or when we’re at our most vulnerable? Are we anticipating to find Christ there in those times?
Will we be ready when Christ is revealed in the normalcy of life? In the sacredness of the rut? Will we know what to do—how to act, how to be—when Christ is revealed in our every moment awake or asleep? Will be ready to embrace that reality?
Advent is about preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s about preparing ourselves for the reality of Christ’s presence at every moment of every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every month of every year. It’s about realizing that Christ is. In all of those times when we’re at our worst—Christ is present. At all of those times when we’re at our best—Christ is present. At all of those times when we’re ugly, false, full of ego and self—Christ is present. When all of those times when we’re apathetic and lazy—Christ is present. All of those times when we’re caring, loving, sympathetic, forgiving—Christ is present.
As we embark on this New Year, may we preparing ourselves for the reality that Christ is here.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC
I’m doing a series now on New Testament Eschatology (the study of last things). You can find the first post here.