What's Tony Thinking

God Comes as a Thief: An Advent Meditation


It is the final week of Advent.

One of the strangest images of Advent is God coming as a thief. So in Matthew Jesus says, “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. Therefore you must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (24: 43 – 44) Or another Advent text, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” II Peter 3: 10

Once when we had a burglary I found myself feeling exposed and vulnerable. I no longer felt secure in our home. I regarded the next door neighbors, and the gaggle of teenage boys who hung out there, with narrowed eyes and evil thoughts.

It’s weird that one of the ways that Jesus speaks of God’s advent/ God’s coming, is as a thief. Quite a contrast to the more common and comforting images of the Christmas season, the coming of a baby, swaddled in light.

But let’s try it on. Suppose that this Advent God is coming as a thief . . . what might God steal from me, from you?

Knowing this God even a little, I’m thinking she might relieve me of some of the stockpiles of certainty I have amassed like bulk purchases from Costco. My sure and certain ideas about some other people might, for example, get spirited away leaving me in a state of holy bafflement.

Or, peering into your pantry, God might notice that tidy stockpile of resentments you’ve been saving up. Slights remembered, grievances curated. And stealing all that, God leaves you with what exactly? A clean heart? A spirit suddenly lighter?

Or perhaps this thief would find and steal that well-concealed self-loathing that we have hidden in a place no one is supposed to know about?

There’s a way in which naked and vulnerable can be very good. Come, holy thief of the Lord. Steal into our cluttered lives with your holy simplicity and grace.

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