Matthew 24:36-44 (NRSV)
Verse 36"But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Verse 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Verse 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, Verse 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Verse 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Verse 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Verse 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Verse 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Verse 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
There are glad surprises, and there are sad surprises. Getting an unexpected check in the mail is a glad surprise. Getting a message or phone call from a long-lost friend is another glad surprise. On the other hand, finding out you still owe on a bill you thought you had paid is a sad surprise. Getting a call that a friend or family member has died, even if it was expected, is an especially sad surprise.
In the gospel reading for the First Sunday of Advent, we are invited to keep awake and be ready for the coming of Jesus. Whenever he comes, it will be a surprise. For some it will be a sad surprise. But for us who are ready, for us who live in hope, for us who are looking for peace, it will be the gladdest surprise of all. A surprise that will last for all eternity.
God of surprises, although we experience many sad surprises in our lives, help us to live in your peace and your hope no matter what comes our way. Amen.