Meditation on Matthew 24:36-44
First Sunday of Advent
The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton
Dec. 1, 2019
36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 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, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 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. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
It was Taco Teepee Tuesday, and I didn’t even know it. Mr. Gill and Mrs. Yost had invited me to spend time with their second graders at Coshocton Elementary on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, since school would be closed on Friday, my usual day to read to the students and listen as they read to me. I said yes, though it meant changing my schedule and working at the church office on Monday, my usual day off. I was looking forward to sharing a message with Mrs. Yost’s class about the first Thanksgiving, like I did for the children’s message in church, making sure to emphasize, in the midst of our delicious Thanksgiving feasts, the importance of remembering to give God thanks for all his gifts to us.
Mr. Gill had just started making taco teepees with his class—and I had just finished my time with Mrs. Yost’s class, when the fire alarm went off! From the startled expression on Mrs. Yost’s face, I was pretty sure she wasn’t expecting a fire drill.
But she knew what to do—and so did her kids. She grabbed her class list and down the stairs we went, out the back door, and down more steps to a sidewalk, then, turning left, we walked all the way to the tennis courts, where the entire second grade was gathering. They moved quickly, with only a little talking, giggling, and shhh-ing—knowing their destination. They had practiced a number of times this school year and in kindergarten and first. Their teachers had taught them what to do—and how they shouldn’t be afraid, but that they should also take it seriously and be watching and listening for new instructions. Because you never know if it is a real emergency or just a drill!
Waiting with the children at the tennis courts, I had a moment to thank God, again, for making it possible for me to be there with them, when I had never planned on coming on Tuesdays, let alone THE Taco Teepee Tuesday.
It was another opportunity to serve those whom Jesus had said, gathering the children to himself, as the disciples tried to shoo them away—to “such as these” the Kingdom of God belongs.
As we waited for the all-clear signal, I thought to myself, what if instead of a fire alarm, it was the sound of a trumpet and Jesus had come back at that very moment—when we were with the children, talking about, of all things, prayer. That would have been a good time for Jesus to return! We were ready!
“Come, Lord Jesus,” I whispered as we walked back to our classrooms, remembering Christ’s promise in Revelation 22:20. “Surely, I am coming soon!”
On this first Sunday in Advent, we are reminded that we are living in the in-between times—getting ready to tell the beautiful story, once again, of our Savior’s birth and preparing our hearts for Christ’s return.
In our gospel reading in Matthew, why does Jesus emphasize our need to get ready and be alert? Because it is easy to let the things of this world distract and consume us—like they did in the time of Noah, when people were eating, drinking, marrying and giving in marriage—just living their lives, but living apart from God. They didn’t have a foundation of faith or a relationship with the Lord.
It’s not a coincidence that we read this Scripture on the first Sunday of Advent, in a season when we are SO busy. We just make it through Thanksgiving, and then it’s Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Our homes must be decorated, cookies must be baked, and the Christmas cards are waiting to be written. Is anyone else’s December calendar already full of activities and the month has barely begun? With all the good things you have planned, make sure you don’t forget your first love—the Lord—and that preparing our hearts to meet Him isn’t the same as getting ready for Christmas.
Another reason Jesus urges us to prepare our hearts for his return is to give us hope. We can become easily discouraged if we forget that this isn’t all there is!
We know Christ is coming. We just don’t know when. Jesus says not even the angels or the Son of Man himself know when he will return. Only God knows. Anyone who tries to tell you differently, Jesus says, is trying to lead you astray. The image of his coming like a thief in the night here in Matthew is taken up by the Apostle Paul in 1 Thess. 5:2: “ For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” And in Revelation 16:15, when Jesus says, “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake…”
But we can be ready for him, as I felt so keenly this past Tuesday, when I was sure that where I was, was where I needed to be, and what I was doing was what the Lord wanted. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling when that happens? I felt a longing in my heart to see the One who will “come on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory,” as Jesus says in Matthew 24:30-31. “And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Are you wondering what will happen to us when Jesus comes back? Scripture says that we will be transformed. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:51-52, “Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” John says in 1 John 3: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
And what of the images of two being in the field—one taken, the other left? And two women grinding meal together; again, one will be taken, another left? How should we respond to these? Should we be afraid that we might be left? No, once you have said yes to the Spirit’s invitation and accepted Christ as your Savior, the Lord isn’t going to change his mind about you. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” And Paul in Romans 10:13 says, “All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Rather than fear or insecurity, the image of one being taken and another left should stir us to compassion for those who don’t know Jesus. It reminds us that we have an important job—and that’s allowing God to use us and speak through us, sharing the good news of Jesus and his love.
Being prepared for Christ’s return means having a firm foundation, having studied, worshiped, prayed and practiced our faith so well that we respond to the Lord as the children did to the fire drill—with confidence and without fear, being sure of our destination, always listening for the Spirit’s direction, looking for opportunities to serve, care for others and give of ourselves. We won’t know how many lives we have touched; how many people we have helped draw nearer to Him. But we HAVE touched lives. We ARE making a difference.
It is my prayer that when the Lord comes back, he will find us faithful—doing only the things he wants us to do and not wasting a single moment harboring hurt or holding onto the past, not when there are good works in Christ’s name to do.
For every time we give and care for someone in need, we are preparing our hearts to meet the Lord.
Friends, He is coming soon!
As I was leaving the elementary school last week, one of the ladies in the office asked, “Hey, do you have a minute?” I had an appointment to get to, but I stopped to listen, sensing it was important.
She wanted me to know about a gift from the women of our church, more than a year ago, of about $250. She used the money recently to buy sweat pants of all sizes—47 pairs—for children who fall down, tear their pants, or get dirty or wet at the bus stop, on the playground, or in school. The new pants are given to the children; they never ask for them back.
The lady who told me this story had tears in her eyes. “Will you tell the women that I said thank you?” she said.
I said that I would—and that I would encourage our church to help again whenever the children have needs.
For when we give and care for others, we are preparing our hearts for the Lord’s return. When he comes on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, may he find us faithful.
Friends, He is coming soon!
Let us pray.
Holy One, thank you for the promise of our everlasting life with you and for your return for your beloved Church. Thank you for the plans you have for us, the works you have already ordained for us to do in your name, giving to others, caring for people in need, sharing the good news of your grace and love. Help us to keep you at the center of all our activities and celebrations this month. Lead us in your will so that we don’t try to do too much. Prepare our hearts, Lord, for your return. Stir us to remain ever watchful and ever faithful, not wasting time on things that don’t bring joy or build up your Church. Come, Lord Jesus. Come soon! In your name we pray. Amen.