The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the
Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the
angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37 For the coming
of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those
days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were
marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all
away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there shall be
two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. 41 Two
women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
42 Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is
coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known
at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the
alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this
reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when
you do not think He will.” (NASB)
The three year lectionary readings for the season of Advent has a design to
it. The readings for the First Sunday are usually apocalyptic. They anticipate the
Parousia, the Second Coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead.
The readings for the Second and Third Sundays focus on the preaching and
ministry of John the Baptist as the forerunner to the Promised Messiah’s first
coming/advent. The Gospel readings assigned for the Fourth Sunday proclaim the
annunciation of the Nativity and prepare us for the Nativity of our Lord.
Consequently, over the four Sundays in Advent there is a shift from
anticipating the dramatic, glorious disruptive consummation of all things to the
more tender and humble arrival of the Nativity of our Lord.
The reading for the First Sunday in Advent, Year A, is set within the larger
body of Jesus’s teaching concerning His second coming. This morning’s Gospel is
the fifth such sayings in which Jesus speaks of last things. In this section Jesus is
responding to the request from His disciples that He teach them what the signs of
His coming and the end of the age will be (24:3).
Jesus began His answer by warning the disciples about imposters who
proclaim either themselves or others as the Christ (24:5, 11, 23-26) and will lead
many astray. He also tells them of the tribulations of the last days and assures them
that His coming as the Son of Man will be known to them because it will be
announced by angels, who will also gather the elect (24:31). In the meantime the
disciples are to remain faithful (24:13) and that while this present world is passing
away, His “words will not pass away” (24:35).
The part of the discourse assigned for the First Sunday in Advent begins
abruptly and without warning. No one, not the angels, not even the Son knows
when the Son of Man will come again in glory to put an end to this sinful world.
The only one who knows is God the Father (24:36). Jesus’s Second Coming will
be at an hour no one expects (24:44). Therefore, they (and we) are to be ready at
all times for His coming.
That of course is the problem. That is the hard part. If we knew of His
coming, we’d be ready because we would get ready. We would spend the weeks,
days, and hours leading up to His return preparing ourselves and trying to prepare
our loved ones to likewise prepare for Judgment Day. After all, when we know
that something big is going to happen and have a pretty good idea when it is going
to happen, most of us prepare for it.
In late autumn of 1990 a scientist predicted a major earthquake along the
New Madrid Fault that would shake western Kentucky and Tennessee southward
to the Mississippi Delta. Seismologists who monitored the fault frequently talked
about the possibilities of earthquakes, but this particular prediction received
special attention since it designated the day, Tuesday, December 4, 1990. As the
media spread the announcement, people stowed away valuable possessions,
stockpiled food and kerosene, learned how to shut off the gas and water. Schools
planned to close. On the Sunday December 2 , the first Sunday in Advent, nd
churches reported unusually high attendance. (Things have declined so badly, I
doubt we’d see much of an increase these days, but I digress.)
Anxiety increased throughout the day of December 3 , and many people rd
stayed up all night. But December 4 came and went without the slightest tremor.
The stockpiles wasted away and church attendance quickly returned to normal.
(CPR v. 12 #1)
By Matthew chapter 24 Jesus was about to enter into His passion. Tension
was in the air. It seems that virtually everyone around Jesus was expecting His
ministry to come to a climatic victory. But the closer He came to the cross, Jesus
spoke increasingly about two things.
First He directed His disciples to His passion. The Son of Man will be
betrayed and handed over to the Pharisees and chief priests to be killed and on the
third day rise again. But while the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ would
The second topic Jesus talked more and more as Good Friday approached
was the topic of His return in glory. The two of them went hand in hand. To put it
another way, Jesus talked the Day of His humiliation and His the Day of His
ultimate exaltation. Good Friday was the day God the Father rendered and
executed judgment on the sin of the world. On the Last Day, Jesus will return to
judge the living and the dead. That day has many names. It is called “The Last
Day,” “Judgment Day,” “Armageddon,” and “The End of Time.” They all refer to
the same Day and the same event.
But in the moments just before Christ’s Second Coming life will be terribly,
terribly ordinary. It will be just another day with all the activities, joys, sorrows,
persecutions, and sins of the kind in the days of Noah. “For the coming of the
Son of Man [Jesus said] will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days
which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying
and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.”
Advent is the season to prepare for the coming of the Lord. Christmas is the
season that celebrates the birth of the Christ Child, the Son of God, in the City of
David some 2,000 years ago. Advent is the season that calls us to repent and to
prepare for the coming of the Lord, both His First Advent as the Babe of
Bethlehem, the Son of Man incarnate, and the Second Coming as the Son of God,
Second Person of the Holy Trinity to judge the living and the dead, Who will
usher in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
The Christ who is to come is the Christ who once lived among us on earth,
and Who is known in the Gospels as the Savior, Friend, and Healer of those in
need. Living in hope, expecting Christ’s return, is integral to the Christian faith,
for by it we insist that there is more to human and world history and God’s
redemptive work than that which we have already experienced already.
The Christian and the Christian life is to mirror the Season of Advent. The
Christians lives and works and serves God in the every day ordinary things of life.
We live among sinners, as we too are sinners. We go about our business, serving
our neighbors, while all the time being prepared for both the arrivals of our Lord.
Jesus told His disciples that in the days of Noah “They [everyone but Noah
who knew the Lord God and trusted in Him] did not understand until the flood
came and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Then Jesus went on to describe the moment of His return. “There shall be
two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be
grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.”
When the Flood came it took them all away the unrighteous, but left the
eight behind. Noah and his family
Likewise, when the Lord returns in judgment, it will be sudden. Two men
will be in the field: one will be taken away in judgment, and the other left behind
in God’s care. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken away in
judgment, and the other left behind for eternal life. This text does not teach that
Christians will be taken over a thousand years before the world ends; it teaches the
opposite! It teaches that the end will come suddenly, without warning; and it
teaches that it is the unbelievers who will be taken away.
We might add, too, that the Greek word, aphiaymi, which is translated ‘left’
is also the same word for “forgiven.” Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the same
word for forgiven is the same word for left. But here, set in parallel to the flood in
Noah’s day, the one who was forgiven by faith, Noah was left and the unbelievers
were swept away.
Second, do not judge the state of the world by the world’s measures;
measure the world according to the Word of God. Do not be fooled.
Improvements in technology, science, and creature comforts do not tell us
anything about God’s disposition toward mankind. Do not be misled by the
ordinariness of each and every day. Rather, look at the world through the eyes of
Christ, of the Scriptures, the truth of God. Acknowledge the reality of evil,
confess your sin, and rejoice in the forgiveness of your Savior.
Out of all the people in the world, only 8 were righteous, only 8 were saved.
Such a small number compared to all those who inhabited the world before the
flood. Yet, the number made no difference to God. They were saved because they
were considered righteous in God’s sight because God had given a promise and
they were children of the promise. So too are you.
He made you a child of the promise in Holy Baptism on an ordinary Sunday
morning. St. Peter refers to Noah (I Peter 3) as he calls the Flood an antitype to
Baptism; as the Flood destroyed the wicked and saved the righteous, so also
Baptism drowns your old sinful nature and saves you.
Some 2,000 years ago, on an ordinary day in an ordinary town, in Judah
named Bethlehem an extra-ordinary infant, the Christ Child was born. There was
nothing exceptional about Bethlehem or the time. Except this . . . God had
promised that His Son would be born in the City of David. There was nothing
special about that time, except that God had appointed it as the moment when His
Son would be born.
As for the people, well the people were engaged in ordinary business,
registering to pay taxes, traveling, eating, and drinking at the inn. It was such an
ordinary day it could have gone completely unnoticed if not for the fact that God
the Father sent angels to announce Christ’s birth to ordinary shepherds doing what
shepherds do, tending their flock in the hills of Bethlehem. Then He sent in the
sky a star so that those who had studied the Scriptures so thoroughly would know
that the King had been born.
Jesus came into the world on an ordinary day. He departed the same way.
On Friday, the day before Passover, the last day of the work week. The world did
not take notice these events. Crucifixions were common, ordinary. There were no
great headlines, “Messiah Crucified!” Heralds were not sent out into the Roman
Empire to announce the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of the Son of God, the Second
Person of the Holy Trinity. Good Friday, by the world’s standards was just a
As we begin this Advent Season and prepare for Christmas, we are
preparing for a celebration. We are preparing to celebrate the birth of the Christ
Child. The Child grew up and He will come again on an ordinary day while
people are eating, drinking, and marrying. And on that Day, the wicked, indeed all
unbelief, sin, and evil will be swept away and only you, the forgiven will be taken
into the new heaven and the new earth.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the