Like a Thief in the Night
The gospel reading for the first week in advent is Matthew 24:36-44.
The first week of Advent always comes as a surprise to me. It always seems like I’m still trying to figure out how many kinds of turkey sandwiches glued together with sweet potatoes I can stomach. But somehow Advent still comes around every year at the same time and I am still surprised as if this is news. In the reading from Matthew, it even says that if we knew what hour the Lord was coming, we would keep awake. And still, it’s as if I wake up from a turkey coma to find that it’s time to prepare for the celebration of the coming of Jesus into the world.
You understand that if the head of the house knew at what time the thief would come, he would keep alert and wouldn’t allow the thief to break into his house. - Matthew 24:43
Matthew tells us to keep awake and to await this coming. And Advent is the time to refocus on keeping awake and putting our energy into readiness. But what exactly are we getting ready for? We are getting ready for the thief to break into the house and turn it upside down. But if Jesus causes so much chaos, why does this energize us into so much celebration every year?
I am not entirely sure, but sometimes I think we could use a good shaking up. I am certainly looking forward to the day when the swords are beaten into plowshares and the spears into pruning hook - when nation shall not lift up sword against nation and neither shall they learn war anymore. But wait, there’s more. It’s not only that we hope that war will end and violence will not be used, we have hope that violence will not be necessary.
Sometimes I think we could use a good shaking up.
But for that to happen, we need to keep awake and await the days when the Son of Man comes. This seems an odd statement to make, I know, but hear me out. In this reading for this Sunday of Advent, Matthew compares the coming of Jesus to the flood in Genesis and to a thief breaking into a house. Both events seem jarring and traumatizing and not things one would look forward to. And maybe we would be terrified if we encountered Jesus in our midst. I certainly would be. But these cataclysmic events can bring forth change that is needed and hoped for, and so we should keep awake to Jesus within our midst and how these events can force us by awakening us to the world around us.
I hope that we are all awake enough to recognize Jesus when we see him in our neighbors and enemies and the stranger who comes amongst us.
Discussion Question: How can we keep awake enough to welcome Jesus when we encounter him in unexpected places? How can Jesus come like a thief this advent?