Today begins the new year in the Christian calendar, the first Sunday in Advent. Our culture often associates Advent with the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas. These four weeks serve as a ramp-up to the "Holiday Season" in the secular world, and the church often gets caught up in the excitement; we can't wait to see the baby Jesus and sing the Christmas hymns. However, Advent is actually a time to prepare ourselves for the final coming of Christ in glory.
Our scriptures today speak not of mangers and wise men but of the final coming of Messiah in glory, and the judgement of the world according to God's righteousness. When Jesus' disciples asked him about these things, when they would take place, his response was "no one knows." Jesus went on to say that the Messiah's final appearing will be sudden, and it will be surprising, and it will be difficult to tell who is ready and who is not until Messiah actually appears.
In fact, Jesus said, much of the world will behave like people did in the time of Noah. In terms we might understand they will go shopping and attend parties and give gifts and make New Year's resolutions, as if this year will be like last year, and next year like all the years before that. Many will not be ready, and it will take them by surprise.
The point of Christ's teaching is not to frighten his followers with images of God’s judgment. It is, rather, the call to be a people who are ready and awake – expectantly living out the hope of the coming of Messiah by fulfilling his work here and now.