Another Advent journey begins today. In a sense, I have been anticipating this Advent for an entire year! It has been a year of watching and waiting. A year of struggle and managing. A year of reunions and saying goodbye. A year of new normals and carving out the sacred in the ordinary. It’s been a hard, bittersweet year. A fresh, unknowingness awaits.
At 11 years, my eldest granddaughter is a prolific artist. She has volumes of compositions notebooks and reams of binder paper filled with stories and poems and drawings of her stories and imaginings. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, she and I talked about how we read and how we write. No one else in our family understands why we read the end of books first or why we write from the perspective of the conclusion. It’s not so much that we must know exactly what’s going to transpire, but that everything we are going to read or write will come together for some meaningful purpose.
That’s how the Scripture for this Advent begins too. Before Jesus left this earthly realm, he reminded his followers that he would return. By the time Matthew writes his chronicle of Jesus, roughly 50 years have passed. His followers have been waiting for a long time and he writes to encourage them to stay alert and watch for Jesus’ return. Otherwise, they might miss God’s advent among.
This is what Matthew says to the community to whom he is writing:
“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
Here we are, more then two millennia later, and we are still waiting! In fact, we have been waiting so long, I’m pretty sure most people are no longer waiting. Just as Matthew’s message fell on many deaf ears at the end of that first century, I’m certain most people today are no longer waiting.
Here’s the thing: I think we completely miss the message when we focus on Jesus’ return. Matthew reminds us that not even Jesus knows the hour of his return. It’s going to be unexpected. The real message we need to focus on is the profound sense of uncertainty this passage evokes.
Uncertainty, surprises, unexpected events are something we do know something about. We live in a culture that wants what we want now. We expect on-time delivery and are intolerant of delays. We don’t like waiting and we aren’t very patient. We’re so busy focusing on ourselves that we miss what’s happening around us. We don’t want to wait and we certainly don’t want to watch for something or someone.
Of course, that’s exactly what God wants for us. Not only does God want that for us, God is reminding us how integral waiting and watching are to our very humanity. So begins this year’s Advent journey.
While most advent calendars begin on December 1, our advent calendar will be on this year’s first day of Advent, November 27. Each day we will “open” our advent window to see what God might have for us that day. I hope you will check in each day (or better yet, sign up to have each blog post delivered directly to your email!) and join me on this Advent journey.