Advent – Matt 24:36-44; Heb 10:19-25
- 29 November 2022
- Stuart Robinson
SHAP. St. Michael’s Vaucluse
November 27th, 2022.
I’d like to start this morning with a ‘BC’ story.
Before cell-phones – before mobile phones.
It must have been around 1965 or ’66 – just prior to the completion of the Newcastle Expressway.
My aunt and uncle lived in Woy Woy on the Central Coast, and they used to visit with us at Christmas.
And the fastest route to where we lived back then, was on the old windy, single-lane, Pacific Highway.
It was notoriously slow – especially if you managed to get stuck behind the many trucks heading back down towards Sydney.
Sometimes my uncle or aunt were up to two hours late…and of course cars would regularly break down back them (who remembers boiling radiators?).
And because it was ‘BC’ – before cell phones, we were not able to receive progress reports and travel updates (as we can in this modern age).
That said, we knew they were coming.
They said they were.
That was the plan.
The actual time of their arrival was much less important than the fact that we’d all have Christmas together – eventually.
With military precision mum had arranged the food, the table, us kids, the presents – the dog had even been bathed and brushed.
And then we’d hear dad call out, ‘they’re here’, as their turquoise 1962 Vauxhall Cresta suddenly snaked its way down our driveway.
They had arrived.
And we were ready.
Hold that thought – arrival and preparedness.
That is the theme of Advent.
Yes – of course we’ll be spending time on Jesus’ first coming – his incarnation, over these coming weeks, but the season of Advent, the start of the ‘liturgical church year’, also points us to Jesus’ promised second Advent – a time when he will return to wind up history as we know it, to set to rights injustice and inequality, to bring judgement to the unrighteous and the unforgiven, and to superintend or reign over his ‘new heaven and new earth’ (as per Revelation 21).
For the people of God, this will be a time of great celebration and much joy…and like the arrival of my uncle and aunt, we do not know exactly when that will be.
Jesus’ emphasis in this text is on readiness and preparedness, you see.
Not even those gathered around our Father in Heaven know the exact time when Jesus shall return – Matthew 25:36.
And this is not a new concept, says Jesus to his friends, referencing the flood story in Genesis 6-8.
God gave his created order notice that on account of their corruption and evil (Genesis 6:11-12), judgement was coming…sometime.
To his faithful servant, Noah, God declared, “all the people on earth have corrupted their ways, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them” (Genesis 6:12-13).
And then, finally – after 100 years quite possibly (see Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 7:6), and within the space of a week (Genesis 7:4), the created order went from rebellion and disdain for God (Genesis 6:5 “the Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only on evil all the time’) – to death and judgement and eventually, to re-creation.
The ‘righteous’ and ‘blameless’ Noah (Genesis 6:6) and his extended family, were rescued from a great flood, and those who flouted God’s love and God’s rule, were lost (Genesis 7:23).
And as Jesus said, as he referenced the account of Noah’s ministry in Matthew 24:37-39, and I paraphrase, ‘those people in that day did not know what hit them’.
Life was continuing as it always did in Noah’s time; people were eating, and drinking, and marrying, says Jesus, business as usual…until it wasn’t.
Likewise, Jesus says, when I return – it will be business as usual…until it isn’t (Luke 24:39).
Like those in the flood, the unrighteous will face judgement, and Jesus references a fellow in a field or woman grinding in a mill and without warning they will be taken, just as people were ‘taken’ in the flood.
And their plight is described for us in Hebrews 9:27, “it is appointed until all people to die once, and after that to face judgement”.
Jesus point to us as believers, is this: be ready; be vigilant; live your lives in the light of Christ’s return.
Be watchful, he says (verse 42), be prepared.
Unlike a homeowner who does not know if or when a thief will visit a property (if the owner did know they would have been ready, says Jesus in verse 43), we have been told of Jesus’ return…not the time – but the fact.
Our Epistle reading, Hebrews 10:19-25 spells out -in summary form, what being ready, being prepared, looks like and with this application I shall close:
First – through our faith in Jesus’ saving death and resurrection, we will intentionally seek to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-24); we’ll conform our will to his, allowing his word and Spirit to reorder our minds and our priorities – Romans 12:1ff.
Second – we shall profess and declare our trust in Jesus, with clarity and conviction; confident that he will faithfully equip us for every situation and relationship (Hebrews 10:24).
Third – we shall encourage one another in the bringing of transformation to our communities; ‘spurring one another on to love and good deeds’ – verse 24.
We are to name and address injustice; we are to care for the marginalised and the downtrodden, we are to use our resources to advance God’s purposes.
Fourth – we are to prioritise (over and above all other relational and recreational options) meeting together (verse 25).
Because – as the text says, meeting each other in church, or in small groups, or on a Zoom call, is the means by which we encourage each other to live in the light of the ‘Day’ of Christ’s return (verse 25).
Putting it another way, and I saw this on a T-shirt once: Jesus is coming: do nothing.
Do nothing other than what you are already doing to advance God’s kingdom, in the light of Christ’s return.