Vigilance During Advent
“Thank you, my God, for the Good News which awaits my coming to you today, and always. Thank you for the grace and mercy which promise to set me free of all the sins and disappointments of life which hinder me on my journey toward your kingdom.” (Rueben Job)
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
The Great Tradition
“All who listen to the depths of the gospel and live it so completely that none of it remains veiled from them care very little about whether the end of the world will come suddenly and all at once or gradually and little by little. Instead, they bear in mind only that each individual’s end or death will arrive on a day and hour unknown to him and that upon each one of us “the day of the Lord will come like a thief.” It is important therefore to be vigilant, whether in the evening (that is, in one’s youth) or in the middle of the night (that is, at human life’s darkest hour) or when the cock crows (at full maturity) or in the morning (when one is well advanced in old age). When God the Word comes and brings an end to the progress of this life, he will gather up the one who gave “no sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids”10 and kept the commandment of the One who said, “Be vigilant at all times.” (Origen)
Prayer of Confession
“Almighty God, we who are aware of your power made known to us in the Babe of Bethlehem, realize that we ought to prepare the way for your coming into the lives of others. You have given us the task of witnessing to the hope for renewal that you hold out to all, but we confess that we have not always taken up our responsibility. Forgive us for our shortcomings, Lord, and encourage us as we try to proclaim the good news that Christ came into the world that everyone might have life and have it abundantly. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.” (H. Burnham Kirkland)
There was a day when biblical texts like today’s Scripture unnerved me. The thought of Jesus returning in the middle of this sentence was more than I could handle. But why? What could a Christian desire more than to be in the immediate and unveiled presence of his or her Lord? And yet, when I was in college, I wanted Jesus to return, but only AFTER I graduated, then AFTER I got married, then AFTER my children were born, etc. I feel silly even typing that sentence.
I resonate with Origen’s take on this verse very much. He wrote, “All who listen to the depths of the gospel and live it so completely that none of it remains veiled from them care very little about whether the end of the world will come suddenly and all at once or gradually and little by little.” The truth is, we will each stand before the Lord, whether he returns tonight while we’re sleeping or not. Thus, we are called and commanded to faithfully live each day as though it was our last, making the most of the time given us… never being presumptuous (and mistaken) about a guaranteed tomorrow.
However, we should not miss the point of our Lord’s warning. Because we do not know when our Lord will return, we had better make sure we are presently in a right relationship with him. I don’t know if it’s ignorance or arrogance to assume one will have ample time to make a deathbed confession in order to get one’s “fire and life insurance” before death takes hold of them. Moreover, even if a person received notice that today was their last, if they didn’t care about Christ and the things of God enough to trust and follow him before, what makes them think they will be able to muster the sincerity of a true confession later?
Therefore, Jesus says, “keep watch,” for we do not know when he will return. We want to be ready to meet him whenever our Father in heaven decides. Besides that, true and abundant life begins here and now. Knowing Christ isn’t only eternal life but is also the only way to become all God created, redeemed, and calls us to be here and now. Since that is true, why in the world would we wait? And on a dramatic, yet serious note, why would we try to play the odds of turning to Christ in faith and repentance five minutes before we stand before him? I have a better idea: why not enjoy the fulness of life he offers you right here and now.
In this season of Advent, let’s heed the call to live in expectation and vigilance. The uncertainty of the timing of Christ’s return should not paralyze us but inspire us to live each day with purpose, cultivating a vibrant relationship with him. As we reflect on today’s Scripture and the wisdom of the Great Tradition, let’s embrace the present, stay vigilant, and share the transformative power of Christ with those in our spheres of influence (our personal mission field) and to a world in desperate need. May our lives be a testimony to the abundant life found in Christ, both now and in the eternal embrace of his unveiled presence. Amen.
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Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: (Proverbs 23:19)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.