On the first Sunday of Advent the Revised Common Lectionary directs the Church to Christ’s future and as yet not fully realized coming (Parousia). Christ’s coming is not simply the past event of the babe born at Bethlehem, Christ is not merely a figurine that can be brought out at Christmas, placed in the idyllic nativity scene, and then packed away again until next Christmas, though that is how many seem to regard him. Christ’s coming is the present reality of God’s revelation in the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s coming is also a future hope when he will come in judgement and mercy to make all things new. It is this present and future reality of Christ’s coming of which the Church seeks to remind us and for which it seeks to prepare us.
Matthew 24:36-44 is short section of a much larger passage dealing with what for Matthew's congregation was an important issue: the delay of Christ's Parousia. What was assumed to be imminent—the Parousia and apocalyptic judgment—was unexplanably delayed. Hence the warning, "Yet about that day and hour no one knows..." This repeated warning has not prevented some believers from engaginging in feverish 'end time' speculation throughout church history, and even still today. Some debate endlessly, based on verses 40-42, whether the 'rapture' will be pre or post tribulation. Others make wild connections between the allegorical figures in the book of Revelation and present-day persons and events. Such connections, it is claimed, prove that the Parousia is imminent, and some go so far as naming the date. To claim such 'infallible' knowledge is the hubristic enterprise of assuming to be privy to know that which '...not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son; no one but the Father alone.' By contrast, what Christ requires of his followers is readiness and faithfulness. This is the ordinary but demanding business of praying, being obedient to God's will, worshipping God, witnessing to Christ and serving others. This, arguably, is the ongoing test or 'crisis' (Romans 13:11-14) that we submit to day by day as we seek to be faithful to Christ who comes continually to us as God's revelation in the Spirit prior to his final Parousia.