In the Lectionary

November 27, Advent 1A  (Romans 13:11–14; Matthew 24:36–44)

We can recognize ourselves in the messy people around Jesus.

I was 12 when my family went to the wedding of the neighborhood girl who babysat me when I was little. Her father was a longtime partner in my dad’s law firm, but the guests skewed more to extended family than to people I knew, and the reception was a little boring for me—so I started daydreaming. I was surprised when my unfailingly polite parents suddenly hustled our family out the door rather than making the rounds one more time to offer appreciation for the hospitality. My dad had perceived an intoxicated squabble breaking out between the bride’s uncles, which we later learned ended in fisticuffs.

In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus has warned his disciples of turmoil to come, and now he is letting them know what to expect even farther into the future. He tells them he will be back, but he doesn’t offer the tone of assurance we might want. The Son of man is coming . . . but at an unexpected hour. Not even he knows when.

It’s meant to make us sit at the edge of our seats, which seems a little strange as we begin a church season most of us will have planned down to the last detail, from the grocery lists to the postal deadlines to the best day to hang outdoor lights. We know when Jesus will appear on Christmas Eve, at the appointed hour listed on the calendar in the church newsletter, right after we light the candles.