Make Your Own Snow Globe: Reflections on Advent 1 -- Matthew 24:36-44
One thing we are not to be doing is calculating the exact time and date of his return. Matthew 24:36 prohibits our seeking to predict the time of Jesus' return. As Douglas Hare points out in his commentary on Matthew, "Not even the Messiah knows when the end will occur! Not even the highest archangels are privy to the Father's intention! How foolish it is for humans to think they can play with biblical numbers and ambiguous prophecies and discover what was hidden even from Jesus!" (Douglas Hare, Matthew: Interpretation Bible Commentary, 282)
So what are we to be doing instead? According to the text, we are to be ignoring false teachers and their signs (24:23-27) and making as our first priority staying alert for the Son of Man's coming. High Alert is crucial because the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected time (24;36). We are to be preparing for the return of the Son of Man. It's no good saying nobody told us how to get ready. The whole gospel of Matthew is about how to be a hearer and a doer of the teachings of Jesus.
The good news of Advent is that the Son of Man is appearing in the skies of our personal and communal lives right now, helping us to prepare for the future. We still have time to be ready. The Son of Man's return is every time we look up and see the face of the Crucified, Resurrected one appearing in the skies of our lives. Where are there examples of human kindness and communal efforts on behalf of society's helpless and hopeless? What kind of snow globe scene would capture them?
Advent is a strange, double vision kind of season in which we look ahead as we look back and look back as we look ahead. It is a simultaneous celebration and anticipation. We celebrate the birth of a baby as we anticipate the return of a full grown, crucified, resurrected Messianic Son of Man.
I wonder if anyone has ever made a snow globe scene that features the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory, with his angels to gather the elect? Our text today tells us to wind the music box, and listen for the loud trumpet call (Mt 24:30).
Douglas Hare, Matthew: Interpretation Bible Commentary (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993)
Edmund Steimle, "The Eye of the Storm," sermon included in the anthology A Chorus of Witnesses: Model Sermons for Today's Preacher, edited by Thomas G. Long and Cornelius Plantinga (Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 1994).
Alyce M. McKenzie is the George W. and Nell Ayers Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University.