Babies and Thieves, Fear and Good News

As we prepare our hearts for Jesus to come as a baby, I am still puzzling over the gospel reading from the first Sunday of Advent. Jesus compares himself to a thief in the night, breaking in at an unexpected hour. I wonder, how are babies and thieves alike?

They do often come at night. Or unexpectedly. Certainly Mary was not expecting to be expecting. Babies steal our hearts. And our time. Such that our worlds are never again the same. And much as we might prepare, we are never quite prepared.

“Do not be afraid.” To Zechariah. To Mary. To Joseph. To the Shepherds. To us. Of explaining to your fiancé why you are pregnant. Of believing her story and taking on the responsibility of being father to someone else’s child. Of having your world upended. Of babies. Or of thieves?

It is hard not to fear. That the presents will be stolen. (Which actually happened to my grandparents when I was little!) Of being alone. In the midst of a crowd of family. Of sobriety. Of anxiety. Of death. How could Jesus be both baby and thief?

But 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.  Matthew 24:43

Am I supposed to stay awake so that Jesus doesn’t break into my house? That’s crazy! Try as I might, I can’t stay awake. Neither could Jesus’ three closest friends.

But there is a twist. Matthew has referred to Jesus breaking and entering before. I wasn’t the homeowner in that story. Jesus likened his healings and banishment of demons to entering a strong man’s house to steal his possessions, after first tying up the strong man, so he can rob his house. That kind of thieving was good news. It meant healing and freedom.

As we look around at this world, whose house is this? Who am I in this scenario? Am I a possession? A captive? Do I want to be stolen away by Jesus? Do I want him to steal my heart? Or maybe he is taking other things—my hurts and insecurities, my addictions and mistakes. How do I prepare for this thief, who comes first as a baby?

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour. Matthew 24:44

Maybe I need to be ready because My Deliverer is Coming. I am not used to thinking about deliverance as coming through a baby or a thief. But that seems so like Jesus, stealing into our hearts, freeing us from our fears. When we didn’t even know we were prisoners, or we had no idea we were his treasure.

Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Matthew 24:42

Jesus, we are expecting you. We don’t know the day. We are trying hard to stay awake, to prepare. Forgive us for our sleepiness. The thief is coming. Unto us a baby is born. Steal our hearts. Come Lord Jesus. Come as our thief in the night.

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