Week 1: Awake: Matthew 24:36-44

Updated: Dec 4, 2019

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. (NRSV)

By: Jan Potter

We like to think that the whole point of Advent is to reverentially await the birth of Jesus. Most of the time we are told to stop worrying about the commercial stuff and move on to what is more important. We should sit quietly and mentally “prepare” for Jesus to come.

This verse tells us of another meaning for the “coming.” It is a stealthy reminder of the second coming—the one we like to write off as being something from Revelation. We are told that we should always be keeping watch.

I like to think about that image of keeping watch. When I hear about the burning bush, I often wonder if that bush had been burning for decades but no one really saw it until Moses came along. I think that is the essence here. Being awake doesn’t mean do not sleep. It doesn’t mean that we must be hyper vigilant all the time. I think it means that we must simply notice the works of God that are all around us.

I read a story once of a harried young mother trying to make peanut butter sandwiches. She was surrounded by messy children. And then she suddenly noticed a stark sunbeam crossing her kitchen table: crossing the messy children, the unfinished lunch, the stark reminder of all that she still needed to do. But what she saw, instead, was the golden light of God shining upon her ordinary world. She saw that which many people never get to see. What she saw transfixed her.

Keep watch. God comes when we least expect it.

By: Martha Bowden

“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24: 36.

The passage for this week’s Advent reflections comes from the words of Jesus on the Mount of Olives. The previous verses are filled with omens and portents about the coming of the Son of Man, but these nine verses remind us that no one really knows when that coming will occur, not even the prophets of doom, against whom we are specifically warned. The following verses include the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, some of whom use up the oil in their lamps and fall asleep, and are thus unprepared for the bridegroom. We must be constantly vigilant because “the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected time.”

The theme of wakefulness has been an ongoing part of Advent practice for centuries. Our organist, Jana Williams, participates in this tradition by playing J. S. Bach’s wonderful organ prelude, “Wachet Auf,” or “Sleepers Awake!” every year. Our liturgy surrounds us with exhortations to be wakeful in the fullest sense, to look and listen for the coming of Christ, who will stir up our wills to experience his power.

What does it mean to remain awake when the relentless rounds of advertising and preparation make it impossible for us to have rest or peace? Being awake in the scriptural sense means channeling out the noise around us so that we can truly attend to God’s promise to be with us, in the double sense of past and future, the baby in Bethlehem and the return of Christ the King. If we are spiritually awake, we will hear the thrilling voice telling us to cast away the works of darkness.

By: Lisa Johnson

At LA Fitness yesterday, I paused to ask a quick question of the guy next to me on the treadmills. No answer! After a moment of irritation, I noticed how deeply focused he was on his workout. Eyes squinting in concentration. His wireless earbuds glistened with sweat. In his own, noise-cancelling world, he was outperforming us all.

So I’m thinking maybe Gym-rat Guy answered me after all— with a new idea we could use as we grapple with how to be “awake” and “ready” in these verses. As Christmas approaches, it’s daunting to focus on anything, much less meet God’s challenge. The tsunami of to-do lists, shopping, decorating, traveling, and events can carry us along by rote. If we let it.

Why not try to put on your own mental wireless earbuds for Advent this year? Focus more carefully on the moments and opportunities that might resonate most for you. Turn off just one Christmas special to quietly pray instead. Be kinder to the busy cashier, and the driver who cut you off. Skip a party and take a walk with just you, Nature and the Holy Spirit. Return the smile on a child’s face when you make cookies, instead of stressing ’cause you were asked to bake 5 dozen. Say no sometimes, and yes all the way to carefully curated, meaningful opportunities for church, volunteering, giving, loving.

God keeps things simple. We just make it complicated. So cancel your noise. Turn to Him. And share the joy.

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