Access today’s readings. Psalm 146, 147; Psalm 111, 112, 113; Amos 1:1-5,13-2:8; 1 Thess. 5:1-11; Luke 21:5-19
A reflection from the Rt. Rev. Susan E. Goff.
For years and years, Tom and I would have a house full of guests during Thanksgiving week. My parents would come from New Jersey and, when she was living, Tom’s mother would join us. Every year we would share Thanksgiving day with a wonderful turkey dinner, long walks, lots of talk, and a late night of playing cards or Scrabble. Needless to say, we never stirred early on the morning after Thanksgiving. No 5 a.m. sales for any of us.
On the day after our first Thanksgiving together in northern Virginia, at a mid-morning brunch, we talked about sleeping and waking up. Tom’s mother said, with a twinkle in her eye, “My favorite time to wake up is real early, when its still dark, don’t you know, so that I can turn over and go back to sleep for two or three more hours.” I know exactly what she meant.
Advent comes to us today like an alarm clock that beckons us to wake up – not so we can go back to sleep, but so that we will stay awake and remain awake, alert, aware, alive. God is active, Advent cries. God has acted in the world, is still acting today and will act again – so pay attention! Don’t be one who wakes early to sleep longer, but be like children on Christmas morning, like a groom on his wedding day, like a musician on the day of the big concert, like an executive on the first day of her new job. Be awake, alert, aware, alive – because something wonderful will happen today.
That wonderful thing, that action of God in the world, is the coming of Christ. Almost 2,000 years ago, in the darkness and despair of a broken, occupied world, Christ came to earth as one of us, to show us how to live lives of self-giving love, to show us how to die to self and live for others, to show us how to live forever.
In Advent, we prepare to celebrate again that glorious coming. We prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth on Christmas.
But Christ didn’t come only once. Christ comes again and again. Daily. Christ didn’t die and disappear, nor does Christ reign from afar in a remote heaven. Instead, Christ is in our midst and comes to us daily – in hope rising out of despair, in light rising in the darkness. Christ comes to us in the faces of others – the smile of a small child or the imploring eyes of a homeless man. We prepare in Advent to see Christ who comes to us every day.
And we believe that Christ will come again to complete the work begun at creation. In the Creed we say, “We believe he will come again to judge the living and the dead.” To judge. That doesn’t mean to punish, but to do the work a judge does – to make wrongs right, to restore balance, to bring justice. Christ will come again to usher in the fullness of the reign of God, that reign of perfect harmony, perfect balance, complete justice.
God acted, God acts, God will act.
Christ came. Christ comes daily. Christ will come.
In Advent we remember and prepare for Christ in all three tenses. We do it by living awake, alert, aware, alive. We can’t see Christ at work in our lives if we sleep through the days, dulled by alcohol or other drugs, numbed by addictions to shopping or eating, dimmed by workaholism. But when we live with eyes open, we will see Christ.