Matthew 24: 36-44
36“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.
You know that moment in the darkness of the early morning when the first light begins to peak in over the horizon and make its way through your bedroom window? You know better than to look at it, knowing it will surely sting your eyes that are groggy from hours of being closed off to the world. So you look away, trying to let your eyes get used to it. And slowly, very slowly the new morning begins to come into focus. At that point you don’t know what the day holds-you don’t know what will go as planned and what will not. You do not know what you will learn or what you will lose or what you will gain. But, no matter what, you have to get up. WAKE UP!
Today we find ourselves about halfway through this Advent season, halfway through our waiting, our preparing, our looking at ourselves in a new way, our listening, our remembering, our looking forward….zzzzzzz…..WAKE UP! It’s time to wake up. And sorry, there is no snooze button.
Theologian William Long equates Advent to an “echo chamber” that heightens our senses, that makes us realize that those small sounds of salvation that we hear are all around us. I think it holds the sounds of the past and the future that reverberate in our present and reminds us that salvation is not something “out there” or, even worse, “up there”. Whatever you may think that heaven or whatever is next is, it is not way up ahead. It is not shielded from view. It is all around us. The air is thick with God’s presence. Barbara Brown Taylor says that “Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.” The only reason it is veiled is that we have too much clouding our view and we’re not yet prepared to see.
The vision is ever and ever closer. We cannot be lulled into a comfortable, sleepy complacency. Think about this. Years ago, a Lutheran preacher, Edmund Steimle, preached a Christmas Eve sermon entitled “The Eye of the Storm”. He compared that serene view of Christmas Eve, the stuff that is depicted as we sing “Silent Night” and light our candles, to the eye of a hurricane. We’re familiar with that. The winds swirl and the rains come until we almost cannot bear it. And then they stop. And the calm descends upon us. But, lest we get too comfortable, we are reminded that they will come again, seemingly unwinding themselves from where they were before. We just have to stay awake because God is in it all, both darkness and light. Robert Benson has a book entitled “Punching Holes in the Dark”. In it, he speaks of our faith journey as being one where we are called to continually punch holes in the darkness so that more and more of the light will be able to enter. But we have to be awake to do that. And being awake, being ready, is not something to be feared. It is a gift. It is us at our fullest self.
A legend tells how, at the beginning of time, God resolved to hide within the Creation that God had made. As God was wondering how best to do this, the angels gathered around. “I want to hide myself somewhere in Creation,” God told them. “I need to find a place that is not too easily discovered, for it is in their search for me that my creations will grow in spirit and in understanding.” “Why don’t you hide yourself deep in their earth?” the first angel suggested. God pondered this idea for a while, then replied, “No, it will not be long before they mine the earth and discover the treasures that it contains. They will discover me too quickly, and they will not have had enough time to do their growing.” “Why don’t you hide yourself in their moon?” a second angel suggested. God thought about this idea for a while, and then replied, “No, it will take a little longer, but before long they will learn to fly through space and will find their way there and know its secrets. They will discover me too soon, before they have grown enough.” The angels were at a loss to know what hiding places to suggest. There was a long silence. “I know,” piped up one angel, finally. “Why don’t you hide yourself within their own hearts? They will never think of looking there!” “That’s it!”, said God, delighted to have found the perfect hiding place. And so it is that God hides secretly deep within the heart and soul of every one of God’s creatures, until that creature has grown enough in spirit and in understanding to risk the great journey into the secret core of its own being. And there, awakened, the creature discovers its creator, and is rejoined to God for all eternity.” (From “One Hundred Wisdom Stories From Around the World,” by Margaret Silf, p. 32-33)
So, Advent comes and disrupts our comfortable lives. And we are called to wake up to God breaking through the darkness into our lives—2,000 years ago, in the promised future, and even today if we will only awaken to the dawn. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “people only see what they are prepared to see.” That’s what we’ve been doing—preparing to see.
The curtain is rising. Jesus is not waiting in the wings somewhere until the play is done; rather, Jesus is standing on the stage itself, inviting us in. “Come, awaken, wait with me. You do not know when the Glory will come but this waiting is a holy place. Stay awake so that you won’t miss the inbreaking of the Divine itself, the dawn of the fullness of the Kingdom of God.” The reason we read this passage that begins at the end is because it is the same as the beginning. God is the Alpha and the Omega. Birth and death are all wrapped up together, needing each other to give life. Awaken now so that you do not miss one thing. Open your eyes. We’re halfway there! The baby is coming! The extraordinary miracle of what is about to happen is matched only by the moment before it does—this moment, this time. The world awaits! Awaken that you do not miss the story!
So, are you awake? When God is ready, God will come. Watch…for you know not when or where God comes. Watch, that you might be found whenever, wherever God comes. WAKE UP! so you don’t miss one glorious thing.
We may ignore, but we can nowhere evade, the presence of God. The world is crowded with [God]. God walks everywhere incognito. And the incognito is not always easy to penetrate. The real labor is to remember to attend. In fact to come awake. Still more to remain awake. (C.S. Lewis)
Grace and Peace,