First Week of Advent: Surprised

{a meditation from the Gospel reading for the first week of Advent, Matthew 24:36-44}

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

Advent’s opening gospel reading gives our drowsy ears a jolt. Rather than visions of a rosy-cheeked Christ child, we hear of Noah’s flood that arrived with a shock, sweeping the world clear and an odd parable about workers sweating side by side – only, when the tale’s done, one has disappeared while the other stands alone, bewildered. There’s a final odd twist where Jesus likens God’s appearing to a midnight cat burglar who slips in through a window to pick a house clean while the family snoozes, a sentence that flies out of left field and should make every flatfooted preacher and every dry storyteller take very careful notes.

In each of these unlikely stories, the common theme is how God’s action interrupts and catches us off guard. The point is not to wag fingers so we’ll shape up and curtail the surprise, a kind of white-knuckle vigil. Rather, the narratives deliver a plain fact: God will surprise us. Whatever we figure God must do or whatever time table we insist God must follow, God seems to always manage something different. Like the lover who springs a proposal or the friend who shows up for the party when they’re supposed to be two continents away, God has panache.

Whether or not we receive God as a welcome surprise depends, I suppose, on whether or not we’re willing to be undone by love, whether or not we’ve got the moxie to say what the heck and exist at the mercy of God’s evocative – but always unruly – imagination. Our invitation is to live wide-eyed, aware that every single moment bears the possibility of God’s agile movement.

Advent, of course, is merely an occasion to remember what has always been true. God is never far. God is always near. And the only truly surprising thing would be if God were never to show up at all.


This Advent, my friend John Blase and I are reflecting on the same text each week, on Mondays, from Sunday’s Lectionary readings. We aren’t talking about the texts ahead of time, simply reading and seeing where they take us. To enjoy the full conversation, hop over to John’s ruminations.

10 Replies to “First Week of Advent: Surprised”

    1. every three years or so, I’ll stumble upon a fabulous idea. guess I’ll have a long stretch before the next one.

  1. “Our invitation is to live wide-eyed, aware that every single moment bears the possibility of God’s agile movement.” Beautiful words. I can see the Spirit-filled wisdom in your writing. John Blase led me here; glad he did.

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