We begin our series of Advent Meditations with this reflection by Sally Howard, Senior Associate for Pastoral Care/Healing & Health.
Jesus said, “Be awake. Be alert. You do not know when the time will come.”
Have you ever had a time when you were especially awake to what was happening around you and within you? It might have been a special moment in your life-like your first kiss or watching the sunrise over the ocean. One time for me was during the last few weeks before my daughter was born. I became very alert. As I waited with excitement and some fear, I noticed every movement she made and every changing sensation in my body. Was this the moment? Would it be tonight? tomorrow? Finally she came, in her own way and in her own time. When she opened her eyes and our eyes finally met, I wondered if she knew how much we had longed for her to be with us face to face.
Advent is a season when I am reminded that I’m not in charge of the timeline — not the ultimate one or often even the ones that seem ultimate in my life. Yet even in our not knowing — perhaps especially in our not knowing we are called to live in hope and trust. We are called to live expectantly to a new day, new joys, and new possibilities. We are called to live wide awake to God’s presence and to be aware that even in the midst of turmoil, God’s kindom is being revealed and finding fulfillment. We can trust in the love and creative power of God. This is a lesson of advent.
When these words were written, the followers of Jesus were getting into trouble for following his kindom path of inclusion and compassion, and a war was on the horizon. There was serious pain in the world, and in their community. They remembered Jesus saying that when you see these things happening, don’t think it’s a sign that the kindom of God is late in coming or has been derailed. Don’t panic and don’t give up. Panic, like sleep, keeps a person from watching and listening for the deeper realities.
And this is the deeper reality—we don’t know what will happen from day to day and hour to hour-what next tweet or next revelation will assail us- but we do know that God is both faithful and God’s love is the most powerful and effective force in the universe. God’s kindom of peace and justice will come to completion. In a world deeply divided, we can believe that we can be one.
Jesus is telling us to be alert and awake to God’s presence now. Jesus is saying that here in this moment is the forever coming of Christ, the always coming of Christ, the eternal coming of Christ. To sustain our vitality and fuel our work of transforming the human race into the human family, we need to abide in God’s ever present love and creative power.
God is like a joyful mother or father, waiting for us to open our eyes and see and feel God’s presence within us, and all around us. We don’t have to attain the presence of God because we’re already totally in it. We just need to stay awake to it. We can look for Christ’s coming in whatever the moment brings, and trust God even in things we don’t expect. This inner awareness-abiding in our belovedness to Love- fuels our hope and carries us through the unknown that is inevitable for all great creative works to emerge.
With all its beauty and brokenness, we are living in a world where God is shining through in people and in things and in nature and in events. Advent is about remembering to see.