2019 Advent “Stay Awake: Christ Is Coming…” By: Rev. Joan Bell-Haynes
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the God. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 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. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” Matthew 24:36-44
Advent is a time of warning, a time of preparation, a time of urgency. It is intended to prepare us as Jesus disciples for Christmas. It is as much about how we live our daily lives as it is about December 25th. This text is clearly a warning but it must not be read literally. It is a call for Christians to stay awake, pay attention to what is happening in and all around us everyday. It is a time to prepare for that will come with the fresh arrival of each new day. Advent is about expecting Christ presence to come to us in the daily rhythms of life.
To stay awake implies a constant state of striving, course-correcting and growth. It is not a static or only during Advent/Christmas state of being. I have friends who keep their tree permanently in their living room (uncovered) because they want to nurture the spirit of Christmas all year long. Don’t we all wish the Christmas spirit of love, kindness and generosity was 365. This is the heart of the Gospel. Isn’t this “good news”!
Process theologian, Rev. Dr. Bruce Epperly states, “ultimately this passage is about mindfulness. Stay awake. Holy moments may catch you by surprise. A pivotal life event may be happening right now, and you are too dull-witted to recognize it. Don’t sleep through your life. Don’t miss God moments occurring throughout the day. God is coming to us in every encounter. We need not wait for a world-transforming catastrophe or Second Coming. As a matter of fact, waiting for a divine rescue operation is the worst thing we can do if we want experience God right now. Don’t pay attention to apocalyptic thinkers and their time tables – they have been wrong for two thousand years and there is no reason to believe they will be any more accurate today. Creative transformation – awakening to God and living in God’s realm – is available to us all the time. The future is in our hands as well as God’s and we need to prepare moment by moment to experience God’s vision of Shalom, God’s provocative possibilities embedded in every encounter. (Bruce Epperly, Process Theology: Embracing Adventure with God and Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, https://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2016/11/the-adventurous-lectionary-the-first-sunday-of-advent-november-27-2016/.)”
If we are not practicing the discipline of staying awake, if we aren’t paying attention, we will not be ready when something good or bad happens. Even though we cannot predict or prepare for every challenge or gift of grace from God, being awake to the Holy Spirit that is fully available to us through Christ, guarantees we will not miss what God has for us. (“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”)
As we journey to Bethlehem this season may we:
Pay attention to God and to what God is doing in the world. God loves us all, we are a part of God’s plan.
Pay attention to the people closest to us, give and receive love. We are all God’s beloved!
Pay attention to the people we encounter. We are all God’s beloved!
Pay attention to the people we least like or least like us. We are all God’s beloved!
Epperly shares, “Jesus’ words challenge us to live faithfully. We are to have a lifestyle of expectancy. We are to live as if God is with us, precisely because God is.
So stay awake. Walk in the light. Open to your role in the divine adventure. Salvation is here, Christ’s coming is now.” Amen.