Reading Romans 13.11-14
Understand the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
Gospel Matthew 24.36-44
Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew
All Glory to you, O Lord.
Jesus said: “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”
This is the Gospel of the Lord.
All Praise to you, O Christ.
Contrast these two readings. Both about Kingdom. Seem to offer slightly different teaching about eschatology.
· Romans: Paul: hour come; salvation near at hand: let us behave as if salvation imminent.
· Gospel: Jesus: no one know; not even Son. Will be divisive.
Both counsel – be ready for unexpected.
1st Sunday Advent. Prepare for the coming of Christ. Be ready for the unexpected: Paul gives this advice after quoting 10 Commandments and Golden Rule. Teaching on ethics. Do not commit adultery, murder or steal. Do not covet. All other commandments summed up in : Love your neighbour.
Love your neighbour. We ask: who is my neighbour? Is it not Jesus himself? Good Samaritan – least likely person. We see face of Christ in our neighbours.
Advent: not only preparing for Christmas. Constant, repeated returns of Christ in our neighbours. How prepare for that? Love God; love your neighbour – says Paul.
Awake from slumber. What does this mean? How are we asleep? You know what time it is. Night is far gone. Salvation comes in the morning. Salvation nearer than when we first believed.
What means: to be asleep? Our sleep is sleep of darkness. Sleep of sin. Cast aside works of darkness; put on armour of light. Put on Jesus Christ. Slumber is spiritual darkness. Light is Christ.
Nothing wrong with sleep. Has its place. But if we felt alive when first believed, has that wide awake feeling been dulled by lethargy? If so, how can we reawaken our spiritual eyes – prepared for imminent return of Saviour?
Putting on armour of light – not just ‘being good.’ Doing good works. Loving God and neighbour. These all works. Cannot reawaken ourselves. No alarm clock to set.
No – we can only be made alive by opening ourselves to influence of Holy Spirit. Making us holy. Being clothed with Christ. Being moulded by the Holy Spirit into his likeness. Allowing God’s Spirit to work in our lives. Then real Advent-ure can begin.
Gospel passage stresses end of adventure is unknown. Unknowable. Surprising statement – the Son himself does not know – only Father knows end of time. Like Noah – everyone pooh poohed his warnings. He made himself prepared. Did as he was commanded. Built ark. Invited others to join him. Those unprepared, or who did not believe, left behind.
Are you and I saying judgment will not come in our lifetime? How do you know? Aren’t you just being unprepared, as the gospel warns?
Analogy of judgement. Not only, what we should do – be ready – but what happens if we ignore. Appropriate readings for Advent. Yearly chance to check our spiritual health. Assess our preparedness for call of Jesus Christ. Keep watchful- you don’t know when Kingdom comes.
Divisive when time comes. Notice: judgement self-selective. Elect to take heed, like those who entered ark. Or elect to remain behind. Jesus uses analogy of the times: two work in fields: one taken one left behind. Two women grinding at hand mill. One taken – other left.
Here, as is always the case, God reveals enough about the future to give us hope, but not so much that we do not have to live and walk by faith day after day. We have assurance about the things hoped for, and conviction about the things not yet seen, but what we do not have is a timetable in the Scriptures, nor would that have been very helpful to the faithful anyway.
We all know we are dying. It’s only a matter of how soon. But if we know we are dying tomorrow, on death row for example, we act in a certain way. Take chances. Throw caution to winds. Who cares? We say – tomorrow we die anyway.
Even for those of us who do not know time or date of our death, cannot just ignore it. Analogy is: judgement comes like thief in night. Imagery: surprising, unexpected, least prepared. Hence exhortation: stay awake, be prepared.
Nowadays we know everything in advance. 24 hr. news. Call ahead on mobile phone. Check if convenient to call. Coming of Kingdom not like that. No warning.
Today is start of Advent-ure. Countdown to coming of Christ. Familiar. Know what will happen and when. Challenge: act differently. Prepare for unexpected. Open to influence of Holy Spirit. Be ready. Be holy.
Christ may have come at Christmas. But – Son of Man will come at a time when you least expect him. Amen