• There is the watchfulness of a child for the arrival of St. Nicholas and Santa Claus. It’s that wide eyed, on tip toes, openness and excitement to the possibilities of something good.
• There is the watchfulness of a security guard making his night rounds – especially after he has heard an unfamiliar noise.
• There is the watchfulness of a family around the deathbed of a loved one at the end of a long illness.
• There is the watchfulness of a college student for the due date of the paper/project.
• There is the watchfulness of a lover for the sound of her/his beloved at the door.
• There is the watchfulness of an expectant mother awaiting the beginning of labor pains.
We ‘watch’ with all kinds of different ‘eyes and ears and hearts’ – depending on the situation in our lives. What kind of ‘watchfulness’ are you into these days?
In the gospel, Jesus seems to be calling us to be aware that God is breaking into the world NOW, inviting us to see the extraordinary hidden in the midst of the ordinary. He does not seem to be warning us that the end of the world is coming, or that our own end is coming, although both are surely going to end someday. “It is like a man who went on a journey,” he tells us. Travel was not as predictable in terms of starting and ending as our days. You never knew just when the master would return. That was just a fact of traveling. So this passage is not a call to dread and fear about the future, as much as calling us to be more aware of, and more actively alive in the present. We are not called to quake at the thought of the coming of God, but to be found steady and prepared, serving at our post when He comes. “Watch! Be Awake!” we are told.
So if you could condense that kind of waiting, the watchfulness of advent down to two words; wouldn’t they be these two? “What if?” ”What if…”
Now I am not talking about the guilty “What if I would have done that better or differently,” but rather “the leaning forward, edge of the seat, on tip toes, filled with possibility” – expectation of something good and life changing about to happen.
So, What if Jesus was wanting to speak to DIRECTLY to you/me in just ONE encounter of each day of Advent? What if we EXPECTED Jesus to deliver us one message each day – maybe in a conversation, maybe in an insight, maybe through something we saw in the papers or heard in the news – would You/I hear it? Would we be present enough to that moment to let it change us?
He did that for me on Thanksgiving day. Just before the “Holy, Holy” one of our usual folks came in, sat for a moment, and then began to ‘make their rounds’, asking for whatever they ask for. (Usually, money for coffer, I think.) And I found myself getting angry, because I only see them while I am in the middle of saying mass, and never get the chance to “invite them not to disturb people at prayer.” As those thoughts were floating in my head, and the protective ‘frustration’ was starting to rise, and my ‘righteous anger’ was hitting its peak (all in the space of about 45 seconds) Jesus spoke directly to me in the next words of the Eucharistic prayer I was praying. “In your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself ALL your children, scattered throughout the world.” … Dang, I was so busted. Because one of those children I was praying about was right in front of me, there in the back of church. And I heard the invitation of what I was praying: What if I really believed those words I was saying… Do I really try to love them with the compassion of God? …I knew the answer in my heart of hearts. Sigh…
There are other ‘What if’s” of Advent, more practical and more about actions than about attitudes.
What if each time we heard an ambulance/fire engine/police car drive by, we would stop, would REALLY stop – and say a pray for the person being attended to, the structure burning, the first responders involved.
What if each time we shopped, we bought an extra can or two to help those in need?
Advent is a time to practice active waiting, to prepare for the coming our God. Let those two words guide you. What if… What if…