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Advent I: Matthew 24: 36-44 (notes only)

November 27, 2022

“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.”

Why this passage today? Why an end-times, anxious reading?

  • I think of Advent: getting ready for
    • wonderful birth of baby
    • Immanuel, God with us
    • Light in darkness
  • How does this apocalyptic reading relate to Advent?
    • Both about anticipating coming of Jesus
    • Both about preparing for a time when the world will never be the same again
    • But preparing for a baby is lovely, whereas preparing for the coming of the Son of Man is pretty stressful


So let’s look at this passage more closely. Three big ideas

  • We don’t know when the Son of Man will come
  • We will be judged; there will be consequences
  • So be ready, wake up.


Let’s explore these in greater detail.


  1. We don’t know when the Son of Man will come
  • For some reason, Jesus is talking about himself in the third person: he is the Son of Man, also translated at Human One.
  • No one knows when he is coming. Not the angels of heaven, not even Jesus himself.
  • It could happen any time, just like good or bad things now
    • Like finding a twenty on the street or getting in a car accident
  • It’s not a bad thing to not know, to be uncertain. Just because you’re baffled doesn’t mean that you are weak or flawed or that your faith is weak or flawed.
  • So stop trying to figure out the timing; that’s not where we should be putting our energy


So, we don’t know when the Son of Man will come. Next idea:


  1. We will be judged; there will be consequences
    • as in the flood, some swept away, some entered the ark
    • as in the coming of the Son of man, some will be taken and some will be left
  • A couple of side notes:
    • unclear in text whether it’s better to be taken or left. Noah left while others/unprepared taken. The same work that is translated as “left” can also mean “forgiven” (particularly when it’s connected with sins.)
    • We also don’t know what it’s going to be like: it could be cataclysmic (like the flood) or undetectable, (like the thief in the night)


  • My automatic reaction is to be dismayed by the idea of judgement BUT
  • It is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • The idea that justice will be done, in a meaningful way, is important. Is a value we want to hold onto.
    • Actions have consequences
    • People have responsibilities
    • We want justice, and we want justice for all people (not separate justice for the rich and powerful, and no justice for poor people, Indigenous people, for example)
  • In this passage, justice includes all people: men and women, ordinary workers (field, grinding). Universal
  • So why does this seem scary? Why the dismay?
  • On the contrary, in Isaiah reading, the learn that the outcome of God’s judgement is that “they shall not learn war any more” and they can convert weapons into farming tools, swords into ploughshares, spears into pruning hooks.
  • I need to remember that God’s judgement never contradicts God’s grace, that this is the same God who comes to us as a vulnerable baby, who teaches us how to live, who loves us so much that he gives his life for us.


Which bring us directly to the third big idea:


  1. Be ready, wake up, keep awake
  • We may not know when the time is coming, but thanks to Jesus, we know what to do and how to be.
    • It’s not a mystery and it’s not beyond our ability
    • If we look at the example of the Noah story: can be about righteousness of Noah, this time about everyone else being thoughtless. This is a problem we can solve.
  • And there is some urgency because we don’t know the timing and it is important
    • What are we waiting for? Let’s get on with it. Now is as good a time as any


  • So WAKE UP!
  • This does not mean stop living your life
    • Folks busy at the daily grind
    • It’s not asking us to do more than we are able
  • A call to authentic, moral living
    • We are called to live in a spirit of wakefulness, awareness, sensitivity.
    • If we do what we can in a spirit of hope and trust, that will be enough.


So here is my invitation to all of us:

This Advent, let’s do what we can to prepare, to be ready, to wake up.

We have good things we’re looking forward to, like a little baby and the end of war.

Let’s make time in our lives to reawaken, to reorient, to turn towards the source of our being. As Isaiah says, “Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”