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“Don’t Wait For Advent”

November 27, 2022 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: Matthew 24:36–44

[Jesus said to the disciples,] 36 “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. 4 2Keep 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.”


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

This morning we find ourselves at the very beginning of a new church year; welcome to Year A in the liturgical calendar!  And thus begins the season of Advent, one of the rather misunderstood times in the church year.  Advent is derived from the Latin term, adventus”, and this word is translated as “presence”, “coming”, or “arrival”.  And while we find ourselves waiting for the upcoming advent, the arrival of Jesus at Christmas, that is certainly not the topic of Matthew’s gospel this morning.  In this reading we encounter Jesus in the middle of a longer passage speaking about what his followers should expect after he has departed from them.

The true “advent”, the real topic of this morning’s passage is not Jesus’ soon-to-be celebrated birth at Christmas, but his eventual “Second Coming”.  And, earlier in Matthew he has spoken on a number of topics related to his eventual return.  On three different occasions he has foretold his death and resurrection.  He has prophesied that the great temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed.  He has warned of false prophets claiming to be the Messiah, and told his disciples that great catastrophes are to come; and that all these are signs of Jesus’ return to the earth, his second “advent”.  This is Matthew’s narration of Jesus describing the “end times”, when his ultimate return will herald the fulfillment of the kingdom of heaven.  When all things will be put under subjugation to Jesus and God’s will for the world will be realized.  The realm of God will be fulfilled and God’s people will experience joy, peace, love, and abundance.

And just prior to this morning’s reading, the disciples have asked Jesus when this will all come to pass; this completion of all things; this eschatology that describes the end of the world as it currently is.  And he gives them the answer they certainly didn’t expect, and most probably didn’t want to hear.  “No one knows”, Jesus tells his closest friends, his chosen disciples.  Not the angels, not even Jesus himself; only God knows when Jesus’ second “advent” will happen.  This is when Jesus makes the point of his entire discourse about his Second Coming; the timing doesn’t matter, simply trust that it will happen, and be prepared for it.  And this is the other part of the advent season’s activities that tends to get a bit muddled; we’re not supposed to be “waiting”, as the word is often misunderstood to mean.  We are challenged to be engaged in preparing for Jesus’ ultimate advent.  While we may be expectantly awaiting the birth of our Savior on Christmas, more importantly, we are at the same time commanded to be making preparations for his second arrival, at a time which is unknown to us.

And this means that we simply don’t have the luxury of waiting to the last minute to “get our act together”, to make the necessary preparations for Christ’s return.  To ensure that our actions are in line with God’s commandments and Jesus’ proclamations regarding our behavior toward everyone.  To borrow a decidedly non-church metaphor; we must be sure we remain on Santa’s “Nice” list, and don’t end up on the “Naughty” side of the ledger.

I tend to be a procrastinator; way back when in school, I seemed to always wait until the last minute to write a required essay, or even start a book report, or sit down to begin an assignment that was due the next morning.  I told myself that I performed better under pressure and that I would do my best work when I put myself under the gun to cram what should have taken several days into one marathon night of pressured scholastic endeavor.  And while this usually worked out, this concept of waiting until the last minute doesn’t aways result in the anticipated outcome.  Take for instance, the dreaded job of picking up the leaves that have fallen in the yard.  This is one of those tasks that I truly loathe; perhaps it’s because my house sits on a hillside and apparently every single leaf that has fallen from the trees in the state park located somewhere behind my yard eventually finds its way to my property.  The quantity of fallen leaves that build up in my yard each autumn is truly epic, and raking them up is a job I detest.  So, inevitably, each year I put it off to the point that I’m trying to rake the leaves up, even though they’re partially snow-covered.  The job is worse the longer I wait to do it.  Finally, though this year, I got ahead of it and started the momentous task just after the first leaves began to fall.  Now, granted, I was forced to clear them from the entire yard several times since I started the task earlier, and the leaves continued to fall, but at least the job was completed without having to chop ice from the matted mass of packed leaves.

What makes this example all the more stark, is that we all know that the leaves must be picked up before the first snowfall, and while that date is not set in stone, we have a pretty good idea when that first storm will come.  If not in late October or early November, it’s guaranteed that we will have to deal with the white stuff before springtime comes.  But Jesus tells us this morning that it’s all the more imperative that we prepare for his return, since neither he nor the angels have a clue as to when that might be.  Thus, we are reminded that his advent is about the arrival, and not about the waiting for it to happen.  And Jesus lays out a number of examples in Matthew this morning of what happens when people aren’t prepared for what is to come.  The people in Noah’s time were caught unaware of the flood waters and were swept away.  Workers in the fields and those grinding grain will be surprised when Jesus returns, and their lives will be affected in different ways. 

But he metaphor about staying awake to prevent a thief from breaking in to the house is the one that seems most relevant.  By this we are admonished to not just be in a state of waiting, but to be aware of what is to come.  We are expected to use the gifts that God has blessed us with in order to ensure that everyone in the present is called to share in the joy, peace, love, and abundance that are promised in the future.  There is no need to wait for Jesus’ Second Advent, when God will bring forth all these blessings to the world, when we are in a position to share them now; if only with the few we encounter in our lives. 

Jesus has promised to bodily return to bring about the establishment of the kingdom of God.  Until he does, the only feet and hands he has now are ours.  We are called to use them in the service of others; to be actively preparing for Jesus’ return, and not simply waiting for it to happen.  Let’s not find ourselves doing nothing to serve our neighbors when Jesus returns.  His command is that we strive to relieve the suffering of others whenever we can; not just when we think he might be coming back.  Let’s be engaged in active preparation, not uninvolved waiting around.  It’s always best to get the leaves raked up as soon as possible; for we never know when that first snowfall might happen.         

Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, only you know when Jesus will return to establish heaven’s kingdom on earth.  And only we are able to actively prepare for his arrival.  Guide us as we strive to share the blessings which you have bestowed on us with others who are in need of them.  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One whose arrival we await; and for whom we are called to prepare.

God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is goodAmen.