Sermon – Advent Sunday 2007

The gospel reading for this morning finished with a statement that we were to be ready for the unexpected hour was almost upon us. For me, the unexpected hour came at 0900 this morning when I heard that our preacher for this morning was taken sick and unable to be with us. So, you will have to make do with a few thoughts off the cuff…. or perhaps this one that I’ve prepared earlier!Yes, it is the New Year in the church and that means starting to read a new gospel.  Apart from the major feasts, when we tend to read the gospel of John, our lectionary cycle of readings allow us to read the three gospels Matthew, Mark and Luke over three years, taking a year to look at each of them.  You can see the symbols of the evangelists high above me in the murals of the church. We have just completed reading the gospel of Luke and so we are back to the beginning again, reading the gospel of Matthew again for the first time in three years.

And immediately, we have a problem.  It is Advent Sunday – our thoughts are rushing ahead to Christmas.  What do we want Advent to be about?  We want it to be about Advent Candles and advent wreaths.  We want it to be about anticipation and getting ready.  We want it to be something lovely.  And then we get brought up short with a reading from Matthew’s gospel that sets the tone for the whole year.

It is frightening.

There were two workers in the field and one shall be taken and another left.

That is frightening stuff

Two women will be grinding meal.

One shall be taken and the other left.

Matthew starts to draw a terrifying picture – one that is not comfortable.  Families will be split up.  Some will be saved and others won’t be.  Jesus, the one that we want to proclaim to the world as the prince of peace is portrayed as a thief in the night.  What more antisocial thing could you say.

Is this really good news for the world?  No one I know thinks that a thief coming in the middle of the night is someone to be welcomed.

This is a problem.  What is going on here.

We need to know something today not just about Jesus. We need to know something about Matthew, the author of the stories which we begin reading today.

Well, Matthew seems to be the sort of person who sees the world in a Black and White sort of way.  (He reminds me of my mother).  Maybe you are like that, maybe not.  Certainly some people are.  Matthew tended to sort the world out into opposites.

  • God and Devil
  • Life and Death
  • Heaven and Hell
  • Good fruit and bad fruit
  • Prudent bridesmaids and foolish ones
  • Wheat and weeds
  • The blessed and the cursed
  • Sheep and Goats

He is just that sort of person.  And so, when he thinks of the end of the world, he seems to think in much the same way.  “One shall be taken and the other left”.

It is an interesting thing to think about, the End of the World.  I would like to suggest that you try it this week.  The temptation is to ignore bits of the bible because we don’t like them.  There are not that many sermons preached here about the End of the World.  It makes us uncomfortable.

Well, I don’t want you to think about what Matthew believed about the End of the World.  I want you to think about what you believe – because that is what matters to you.

The thing is, the way you think about the end of the world tells you more about you than about the end of the world itself.

And the ultimate destination that we have in mind sets us on our way.  The place that we are heading for gives us some idea of the way to go.

And that is what this is all about.  It is about finding the way to go.  Finding the way to go right now.  It is about finding the way to go today.

The things that will happen at the end of time can seem so distant, so Christians throughout the ages have said – “Act as though it is right now.”  How would you behave?  How would you relate?  How would you life?  How would you do all these things if the end of the world were tomorrow.

Life as though the end of time is tomorrow and you will live life to the full.  This is not a threat but an encouragement to life a life that is just great.

We want to find a way of living and that starts with knowing where you are going, so think about that this week.

Matthew does not give us flowery descriptions of how to get to heaven. It is more as though he is drawing a diagram, giving us a map.

He is not writing a description about how lovely it all is.  We can look back at the prophecy of Isaiah for that.  He is writing something that is much simpler.  When Matthew writes, he is writing simple things in black and white. He is not telling us what the end of the world is like. He is not even telling us what heaven is like.  No, he is saying more than that.  He is telling us in black and white how to get there.  And the thing that he tells us is simply this.  Be ready.  Be always ready.

Yes, Matthew uses a diagrammatic way of writing.  He is pointing us in the right direction.

Matthew writes in this way a lot.  His stories are like diagrams of how to get somewhere.  How to get to heaven in fact.  His diagram this morning says that if we want to get there, then all we have to do is get ready.

And when you get near, you will see a pointer – showing the way in.  That, of course, is Jesus, whose coming is what Advent is really all about.

So, what at the outset seemed frightening is perhaps a little less so now.  Advent is about the coming of someone who loves us.  And the start of Advent is as good a time as any for getting ready for his coming.

Getting ready is so important.  We have to plan to get ready for the cold weather in the winter.  We do have to plan for Christmas.  We are full of making plans.  And if we have to plan all these things, how much more must we get ready for the coming of the King.

So then, how are we to do this.  The only way to plan things is to take one thing at a time.  Start with just one thing.

  • What one thing could I do, starting this advent, to bring the kingdom of God that little bit closer?
  • What one thing could I do, starting today, to bring the kingdom to those around me.
  • Think about it. What one thing could I do, starting right now to bring heaven that little bit nearer.


Well, what is stopping you.

You know, the declaration of the Kingdom of God is not a threat, but a call; “Are you ready”

  • not an alarm, but an opportunity; “Are you ready”
  • not a cause for dismay, but a reason for hope. “are you ready”
  • He is coming, ” are you ready”

for he is coming, very soon.



  1. Is anyone ever 100% ready?

  2. Zebadee says


    As always you are correct. Your mother does see life as black and white. The difference between your mother and Matthew is that she is not a ‘dualist’ and I suspect that the writer of the Gospel is.

  3. Marion Conn says

    Hi Kelvin, St Benedict also enjoined his monks to live each day as if it was their last. He tells them to “run while you have the light of life, that the darkness of death may not overtake you.”

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