“Keep Awake”

Advent is an odd time for the Christian.

Christ is coming!
But he was already here. Wasn’t he?
He’s Coming Again!

This conversation feels odd, but it’s no more odd than every other day for the Christian. We live in the tension of knowing Christ was already here, already walked among us, already saved us; and knowing that we are not yet with him, not yet fully alive, not yet rescued from the consequences of sin.

Maybe that’s why not many churches celebrate a true Advent season. We don’t understand this odd waiting, so we sing our Christmas carols before it’s time. We get bored of the dirge-esque “O Come O Come Emmanuel” and rush into joyful choruses of “Glo-oo-oo-o–oo-oo-o–oo-oo-o-ria!” and “Glory to the newborn King!”

But the Gospel texts for Advent aren’t “Christmas” texts. We don’t get to read about Jesus being born until he’s actually born. The Bible doesn’t rush into this; it insists we take our time. Instead, we read about waiting. Hear Jesus’ words today:

Mark 13:32-37 (NRSV)

“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Keep Alert.
Keep Awake.

I don’t think the hectic hunt for bargains on gifts is the kind of alertness Jesus is asking of us. I don’t think the 2:30 AM lining up for Black Friday deals is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Keep Awake.”

I think Jesus is asking me to wake up, to keep my eyes open, to keep on waiting: where might Jesus be showing up today?

I think Jesus is asking me to not fall for the world’s idea of holiday waiting: counting down the minutes to Amazon.com deals, eating a fancy chocolate every day until Christmas, watching for clues as to what my wife might be getting me for my stocking. These are, in fact, ways of putting my soul to sleep.

“Unexpected Savior, you are coming again…give me a watchful heart full of expectation and wonder. Amen.”
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