For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:37)
While stores, radio stations, and most people will tell you this is the Christmas season, here in the church we say otherwise. The season of Christmas is the 12 days from December 25 through the day of Epiphany on January 6. Hence the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” If we reworked that song for today, it would likely be the 55 days of Christmas starting the day after Halloween and ending abruptly December 25!
Here in the life of the church, this is Advent, the season of preparing ourselves spiritually for the birth of the Christ-child. Advent means arrival, and we are preparing for the arrival of Jesus.
However, Advent is not just about preparing for the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem, wrapped in bands of cloth, and lying in a manger. We are also preparing for the return of Jesus, what is sometimes called “the second coming,” that great and glorious day when God’s beloved community will be established for good, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
In the gospels, Jesus’ followers wanted to know when that day would come. When would God’s beloved community be fulfilled throughout the world? Jesus’ response when asked was that know one knows, not even him, so in the meantime, “keep awake.”
Jesus compares it to “the days of Noah.” Genesis says that in Noah’s day, there was so much evil in the world that God decided to wipe the slate clean and start again. At the same time, Jesus says, in those days people were just doing their thing, eating, drinking, marrying, until the flood arrived.
What Jesus is describing is what we call alienation. The people were alienated, or separated, from God and from each other. This is why they treated each other so poorly. But they were unaware of their alienation until the day of the flood.
Therefore, “Keep awake,” Jesus says. Be aware of your alienation. Watch for the signs of God’s beloved community already present in our world. Too often, we are asleep to God and like the people of Noah’s day, we are so busy and distracted we don’t even know it.
Advent is a time to wake up to God, wake up to the needs of the world, wake up to one another. It’s a time to prepare for the arrival of God’s beloved community, a beloved community that will break into our world as a little baby and grow up to invite us into full discipleship. Keep awake, for once we are awake, then we can celebrate Christmas.