Can we keep preaching these texts, year after year, and expect people to believe he is coming?
Gospel Reading: Matthew 24:36-44
For Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010: Year C – Advent 1
Nothing raises my holiday spirits like the anticipated threat of Jesus kidnapping someone at work and then breaking into my house and robbing me. And the fun part is, it will all be a surprise! Yeah.
No Need to Fear
This is how we begin the season of Advent. The only thing more fun would be if it could be little baby Jesus doing the kidnapping and the breaking and entering. If it wasn’t a little funny, it would be really creepy. But there’s no need to fear the Almighty’s surprise felony threat. The church has been preaching this for a very long time, and Jesus hasn’t gotten so much as a speeding ticket.
Still Waiting on the Promised Peace
Advent is the perpetuation of a promise that remains unfulfilled. I know it seems like a threat and not a promise in week one’s Gospel text, but the central thrust of the liturgical season is the expectation of the fulfillment of God’s promise of the coming of Messiah—again.
It is the celebration of the fulfillment of God’s Older Testament promise of Messiah and the anticipation of the fulfillment of the New Testament’s promise that Jesus the Messiah will come again to complete the fullness of the Kingdom of God. But why does he need to come again? Why didn’t the lion lie down with the lamb the first time?
“Are You the One?”
The Isaiah and Gospel texts for Advent promise a time when all nations will be at peace, the lion will lay down with the lamb, swords will be beaten into plow shares and this will all we ushered in by a little child, called Immanuel, God with us.
In Matthew 11:2-11 (Advent 3A), John’s disciples ask Jesus a hard question: “Are you the One or should we wait for another?” Jesus answers, “Tell John what you see: the lame walk, the blind see.” In other words, what do you see? What has been promised has been fulfilled.
This Advent we want to take John’s question seriously. When I look around, I might come to a different conclusion. Where is the promised peace? As preachers what do we tell our people?
The Hardest Question
This Advent season www.thehardestquestion.org contributors will ask: Can we keep preaching these texts, year after year, and expect people to believe he is coming, that peace is ever coming?
Join the Hardest Question community in struggling with deep and difficult questions at time when we are pushed toward the shallow and simplistic. Add your comments; let us know how you read the text; what you might preach.
People are waiting for something . . .
Russell Rathbun is a preacher at House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota, the author of Midrash on the Juanitos (Cathedral Hill Press, 2010) and the curator of The Hardest Question.