Jesus said to the disciples, “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. 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, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (Matthew 24:36-44)This weekend, the First Sunday of Advent, I have no sermon to write. I am looking forward to an extended Thanksgiving break with family. Nevertheless, I have been pondering the text above, the appointed gospel for this coming Sunday, alongside other eschatological and apocalyptic texts that show up in Advent in both the Old and New Testaments.
Advent is not primarily a nostalgic look back to the first coming of baby Jesus in first-century Bethlehem. Rather, it is a hopeful look ahead, to Christ's SECOND Advent, It invites believers to reflect on the deep truth that out of endings there really are new beginnings, (See, for example, Isaiah 11:1 which is read on the Second Sunday of Advent - "...out of the stump of Jesse, a shoot...") We look toward that day when there is no longer pain or sighing or tears, and there are people singing, from every nation, tribe, people and language (see Revelation 7:9)
The gospel is not a "spiritual" matter. Christianity is a fleshy- faith, not a gnostic sect. The weeks of Advent are a time for us to prepare to welcome Emmanuel, God-with-us, in the midst of it all. That's not just for an hour on Sunday mornings or the quiet of our hearts. It's about the world we live in - shepherds and politicians and cab drivers and midwives. It's about healthcare, and how we treat our neighbors fleeing persecution. The election is over but the work of the Church continues.
We know how the story ends. The work to which we are called, in the meantime, is to do all that we can to move toward that vision, not as idealists but as realists who believe that is the dream that God has for this world. And to resist all that works against that vision. This is not about partisan politics. This is about fidelity to the gospel.
There have been lots of words written since election day. Truth be told the anxiety level is high. But it's hard to stay calm when the President-elect is so good at feeding our fears. Will this nation be a place where people from every nation, tribe, people and language can sing the Lord's song? Or is the way "to make America great again" code language for turning the clock back, by undoing the gains that have been made for women, people of color, and LGBTQ people? Only time will tell.
It's almost cliche for clergy-types to put down consumerism as we seek to carve out space for Advent. I surely get that. But a real Advent message has come to us this year from, of all places, Amazon.com. I think this ad points to the work of the Church in these dangerous times, and is a sign of the in-breaking Reign of God. How can we channel this vision, not to sell a product but to convey the good news of the dear Savior's birth, and to work for reconciliation, justice and peace?