These days surveillance seems to be the normal for life. Stores have signs warning of surveillance to protect against theft. Maybe you have invested in home monitoring equipment with cameras inside and outside on the watch for a burglar in the night. Jesus told of a house holder being on the watch to prevent his home from being broken into. The threat at night comes not from a shady character but from Jesus himself. While a house owner will keep watch to prepare to stop a burglar who might come at any time, Jesus is telling us to also be prepared for his unexpected arrival.
The church is in a transition. The church begins its new year with the start of Advent which is about preparing for Christ. This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent and the emphasis is on the second coming of Christ. The preparation for his coming leads us to Immanuel – Christ with us – Christmas. The readings also shift to the Gospel of Matthew. So we begin the start of the church’s new year looking at Christ’s coming.
The tough challenge for us is not be so caught up with the ways of life that we forget the warnings. As an example, the vast majority of scientists are sending out the warning of damage being done to the environment by high levels of carbon dioxide. Will we continue as normal until the weather changes become too severe?
Jesus has just told of the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and of great hardship to come. Naturally, all those in attendance wanted more information to prepare. Jesus gave no exact timeline but that the Son of Man will return. When that right moment comes, the elect will be gathered to welcome his coming. This moment is secret. Jesus doesn’t even know but only the Father. This isn’t an excuse to ignore his coming but to make all of life a way of preparation.
Jesus referred to Noah and the flood. Life was going on as normal. This normal was so full of corruption and evil that God was pained in his heart. The flood came and the unrighteous were washed away. So it will be when Jesus returns. People will be doing what is normal: working, marriage, raising children, etc. Then one will be taken and another left behind. As with the image of the flood, what is unrighteous will be taken away. The ones left behind are the ones to welcome Christ’s return as King and Lord.
So how do we prepare? How do we get ready for the day we don’t have an exact timeline? Imagine a newly engaged couple. Even if the date hasn’t been set, their lives are changed with future plans starting to be put in motion. Life has suddenly changed for them. Christ’s death and resurrection has begun a new age that is on the way to being fully established at his return. Like the newly engaged couple, the focus is to be on the future in God’s reign.
Jesus does give some examples of what are expected in the following chapter. One is in the Parable of the Talents. This is using of our resources and abilities to further not the corruption of this age but the age of God’s justice and mercy to be established. More specific items are listed with the Sheep and the Goats: the hungry are fed, drink is given to the thirsty and clothing to the naked, the stranger is welcomed and the sick are cared for while the imprisoned are visited. This is how we prepare.
Life as normal is concerned about Black Friday deals and Cyber Monday specials. Life as normal is worrying about paying the credit card bills in January. Jesus is telling us to prepare with a life that is a new normal; one prepared for his coming.