Notes for a message based on Matthew 24:36-44; “A”–Advent 1

This Sunday begins a new cycle of the Church Year: we are entering Lectionary Year “A”.

Readings for this Sunday are: Isa 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matt 24:36-44

You can find these readings here: NIV  // NRSV  // The Message

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Have you ever wondered why our life here on earth seems so far removed from the promises of Heaven? Have you ever wondered what our lives would look like if we would diligently work to make them as much like heaven as possible?

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Today is the first Sunday of Advent! Today is the first Sunday of the new church year. We are in the season of Advent when we remember Jesus’ first coming (First Advent) and prepare ourselves for Jesus’ final return (Final Advent) sometime in the future. Today most people expect a sermon about cute baby Jesus who was born in a manger; a sentimental message with a touch of nostalgia that reminds us all that God loves us, and that is why he came to dwell among us. As true as this is, what are we to do with today’s Gospel reading?

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39 …That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 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. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.  (Matt 24:39-44)

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What are we to do with today’s reading from the Early Christian Writings?

The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now … . The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11-12)

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These readings are harsh and scary in their simplicity. They are saying, “Watch out or you will miss the bus…” Today’s readings say nothing about the cute baby in a manger. There is nothing in today’s readings about Christmas cheer, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, or dreams of a white, snowy Christmas.

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Today’s readings remind us, however, that at the time of his final return, Jesus will be coming back in judgment. The words from Paul’s letter to Romans add urgency to that promise of judgment.

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Truth be told, we are not comfortable with that. We prefer Jesus to be a nice guy, and not much more than that. We do not like the idea of being judged because it means being held accountable for our actions, and for the way we live our lives.

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The Hebrew Scriptures, Early Christian Writings and the Gospels talk about the coming judgment through the lens of God’s justice (God’s Justice = how well we treat one another and our neighbors + what we do with the blessings that God has bestowed upon us.)

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God’s judgment and God’s justice go hand in hand. Being a follower of Jesus is about finding a balance between God’s judgment and God’s justice.

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So what’s in it for us? What can we take from all that and how can we apply all that to our lives as we live them in the Advent 2010?

 

Although we don’t think about it, God is always coming into our world. God is always coming into every moment of every day of our earthly lives.

 

God enters every moment and every situation of our lives with a vision, with a notion, with hope and with an idea, of what that moment can be. These possibilities are God’s grace.

 

We have a free will and a choice as to how we respond to God’s Grace. That choice is simple: do we let more or less of God’s grace into the world that God entrusted into our care.

 

The season of Advent is about the creative presence of God in our world, the possibilities that God brings into our lives and how that presence and possibilities compare with the established routine of our lives. Advent is a season to think about our invitation to be instruments of God’s grace in this world, and our role in ushering the time when the proverbial swords will be beaten into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4).

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We live in one of the bleakest periods in the history of humanity… As a whole, the human race has never been less sure about the meaning of our lives or our importance in the universe…. the economic news is dreadful.

 

Unemployment is close to ten percent, more and more people cannot afford life insurance, senior citizens have to make a choice between eating three meals a day or purchasing medicine that will keep them alive and capable to fend for themselves. The environmental news is even worse; scientists are telling us that global warming will release so much methane from melting permafrost regions that our atmosphere will not be able to sustain present life on this planet. There is a threat of terrorism, airport security is on the front page of most newspapers and on CNN…. This is scary stuff and there are limits to what we as individuals can do about it.

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But we are not helpless! We can be instruments of change in the world. The Hebrew Scriptures, the Early Christian Writings and the Gospels talk about the coming final judgment through the lens of how well we treat one another, our neighbors, the Earth entrusted into our care and what we do with the blessings that God bestowed upon us.

 

We can contrast all the news and dire predictions with the story of Advent. The story of Advent reminds us that God is physically with us and among us. The story of Advent is the story of Jesus coming back to bring final healing to our problem riddled world.

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The story of Jesus is never told just because Jesus was a cool guy or because it is a cool story. The story of Jesus is told and retold with the hope that it will bring a change in us. The story of Jesus is not just about what God did 2000 years ago; the story of Jesus is about what can happen when we let God into our lives.

 

The story of Advent is not something that happens to us as we passively go about living our daily lives. The story of Advent is a story in which we are invited to act as active participants. The story of Advent invites us to be God’s partners in hope as we witness to God’s presence in our world.

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