Here’s a children’s sermon on Matthew 24:36-44 for the first Sunday in Advent. (If you want to see my regular “Monday Meditation” on the same text, click through here.)
In the Revised Common Lectionary, Advent always seems to start backwards. Advent is four weeks preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmas. It is also the start of the year for the Church. So how do we kick it off? With Jesus telling us about his second coming at the end of the age.
But taken another way, this chunk of Gospel text actually is starting the Advent journey right where we are. Now, today, we are in the long long season of waiting for Jesus to come again, at the end of the age. We need to get that clear so we can step back in our imaginations to when he came the first time, as a baby in Bethlehem.
So in this children’s sermon or Matthew 24:36-44, my goal is to focus on our present waiting, and what Jesus said about it long ago. I hope that will be helpful in preparing our hearts to receive him in the celebration of his first coming among us.
A Children’s Sermon on Matthew 24:36-44
Good morning kids! I’m so glad to see you. Thanks for coming up to hear the children’s sermon. Today is a very special day in the life of the Church. Today we begin a brand new year. Our new year starts with Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas.
Advent isn’t Christmas. Advent is getting ready for Jesus to come. We get ready for Jesus to come to us as a baby. We get ready for Jesus to come to us in his grown-up ministry. And we get ready for Jesus to come back again someday.
Today, on the First Sunday of Advent, we hear a story about being ready when Jesus comes back. Here’s how I imagine it.
Going Away, but Coming Back
It was near the end of Jesus’ life. Jesus had spent three years with his friends. He had taught about the Kingdom of God. He had healed people who were sick. He had fed people who were hungry. And now, he knew he was going to die.
Everybody dies eventually. That’s part of being human. And Jesus knew his death was coming pretty soon. So he started talking about it with his friends.
“You know, guys, when we go to Jerusalem it’s going to be really hard. They are going to arrest me, and hurt me. In fact, I’m going to die.”
“But that’s so sad!” said Mary.
“That’s really scary!” said Thomas.
“No way!” said Peter. “We won’t let anybody hurt you.”
“That’s nice of you, Peter,” said Jesus, “but there’s nothing you can do to stop it. I’m going to die. Then I’ll rise again, and go to be with my Father in heaven.”
“We’re going to miss you so much!” said Martha.
“Thanks, Martha,” Jesus said. “It’s going to be hard, I know. But I want you to know a secret: I’m going to come back.”
“What???” they all asked.
“How can you do that?” they asked.
And most of all they asked “When are you coming back?”
“I don’t know, actually,” Jesus said. And he shrugged his shoulders..
“You don’t know?” asked Thomas. “How can you possibly not know? I mean, you’re God and everything.”
“What can I say, Thomas?” asked Jesus. “It’s a super big secret. Nobody knows except my Father. Not me. Not the angels. Nobody.”
“That’s totally crazy,” said Thomas. “I’m not sure I believe you.”
“But that’s how it is,” said Jesus. “I’m allowed to tell you I’m coming back. We want you to have hope instead of being too sad. But I’m not allowed to tell you when. I’m not even allowed to know when myself!”
What to Do?
“So what are we supposed to do?” asked James. “Can you give us a hint at least? Like will it be soon?”
“Sorry,” said Jesus, “No hints. Just a plan.”
“What’s the plan?” asked James.
“Be ready,” Jesus said. “Could be any time. Keep your eyes peeled. It’ll be a big surprise.”
“I don’t know,” John said. “I think it would be better if you gave us a list of signs to look out for — so we know when you’re almost here, and make sure everything is ship-shape.”
“Well,” said Jesus, “my advice is to get everything ship-shape right away, and then always be ready. Whether I come back in a couple weeks or a couple thousand years, your job is to get yourself ready, and make sure the world is ready.”
“I have a question,” said Mary. “What does it mean to be ready?”
“Good question,” Jesus said, “Think about all I’ve taught you about the kingdom of heaven. That’s what you need to be ready for.”
- I wonder what the disciples felt like when they found out they couldn’t know when Jesus would come back?
- I wonder what you and I can do to be ready in our hearts, wherever Jesus comes?
- I wonder what our church could do to be ready for Jesus to come back?
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Anne Davis says
Young people really enjoyed this reading, we thought a lot about how we look forward to Christmas but there are much bigger things to look forward to as well, Jesus could come back and surprise us!! Our Church of England theme for this year is ‘Follow the Star’, so they went home with Advent Calendars with each part of the story preceded by the Star and a picture to think about.
Gary Neal Hansen says
That’s lovely, Anne! Thanks so much.
Blessed Advent to you and your congregation.