“Watch, therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. Watch, lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Watch.” ~ Mark 12:35-37
Happy New Year! Where did the year go? I have no idea. But no, it’s not January 1; it is still November. The Church begins its new year on the First Sunday of Advent which is this coming Sunday. The scripture lessons this year are more about the Second Coming of Jesus than they are about his birth. It’s much easier to write about birth stories, since I know something about that, than it is to write about the Second Coming of Jesus of which I have had little direct experience.
Birth stories are more about waiting and the second coming is more about watching. Waiting for birth is about preparation for new life. Birth pangs will tell us when it’s time. Watching has a different feel. As I sit here, I’m trying to get in touch with that difference. Watching is about paying attention to what is going on around us as well as inside of us. In giving birth, we know for what, even if not exactly for whom, we prepare. Paying attention – watching – is about noticing the signs of Jesus’ coming again. We’ve never done this before. For what do we watch? How do we prepare? How will we notice? How is it different? Maybe the work of Advent this year is reflecting on those questions. Today, I have been looking through some books of Advent meditations. I am trying to decide which I will use this season. I read this from Preparing for Jesus, by Walter Wangerin Jr.
“For nearly one thousand five hundred years Christians have spent the days of Advent not in passive inaction, but in activities strenuous and profitable; they have prepared themselves by scrubbing and cleaning their lives, by examining and repairing their souls—even as people generally prepare themselves body and home to receive a visitor of ineffable importance.
“Who is coming? Who awaits him? And when will he get here? And how shall the people prepare?”
“The Son of man, He is coming. Jesus. That One, Him.”
“And we are the people who await him. You and I. Since it was for us he died, we are the ones who wait in love. And since he ascended to heaven with promises to return, we wait in faith—for the next and final Advent, Jesus will take us as friends, as brothers and sisters into his house forevermore.
“And when will he get here? Like any New Year’s Day: at the end and the beginning. But that Advent to come—the final arrival of Jesus in glory—will itself cause the end of this present age and the beginning of our eternal joy. When will that be? Ah, my friend, I do not know. No one knows its day or hour. Therefore, Jesus commands us to “Watch. Stay awake. Get ready. Prepare, prepare—and watch?”
“Finally then, how shall we prepare? In these days, while yet there are days and time, by what activity should we make ourselves ready? Why, by meditating on his first coming—for though the future may be hidden from us the past is not, and the one can teach us the other.
“The story of the birth of Jesus is open before us. We have a spiritual and holy account of the time when God himself directed preparations for that first coming of his Son into the world. What God ordains is always good. Therefore, those preparations may be the perfect pattern for our own this year again, this year too.
“Behold, I bring you good news of great joy….
“Oh Lord, Stir up, we beg you, your power—and come. Come even now into this season of our meditations, that by your protection we may be rescued from our sins, and saved by your mighty deliverance in order to look forward to your final arrival with the joy that cannot be uttered… Amen.”
Bless you in your waiting and in your watching.