A Disciplined Watcher: First Sunday of Advent

First Sunday of Advent [01DEC2013]

Lectionary Text: Psalm 122 ◊ Isaiah 2:1-5  Romans 13:11-14  Matt. 24:36-44

“So you must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42)

Waiting… Waiting watchfullynipsis watching—with vigilance, with highly attuned senses and razor sharp intellect—attentive and aware of the signs; expert in semiotics.

“It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” (Romans 13:11-12).

Much of my day today has been spent considering a few words and subsequently examining my life through the relative filters of those words. I’ve been writing about watchful waiting the past couple days as I’ve continued to meditate on what it really means to wait watchfully. The word pictures and synonyms I’ve found for the type of “watchfulness” that is expected of Jesus followers is rather intimidating. It is professional level watching and waiting. This is not to say that “non-professional” or mediocre watchers are lesser Christians than the zealots among us. It makes me wonder though, when I read Scripture that tells me the following: “If the righteous are barely saved, what will happen to the godless sinners?” (1 Peter 4:18). What does Peter mean when he says, “If the righteous are barely saved?”

I get that we are “saved by grace…” (Eph. 2:8). I get that our works of righteousness do not make God love us more than he already does. I understand the legitimate concerns voiced about how spiritual disciplines can quickly slide into acts of legalism, but I wonder still… I wonder how much of our caution and how much of our concern against works of righteousness and spiritual exercises have contributed to spiritual apathy and putting many believers in dangerously vulnerable positions.

“Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

When I read the words of the ancient church fathers and their devotion to discipline and alertness, my own devotion pales in comparison. It’s easy for me to say to myself, “those guys and gals are just over the top…” Then, I think to myself, “The same devil is still prowling around looking for someone to devour.” I wonder what comes over me that causes me to think I am more enlightened or spiritually empowered than those ancient, disciplined saints. Truthfully, I don’t think I am either of those things; although, sometimes I carry on in my life as though I do. I believe it can be easy to take God’s grace for granted. I believe many Christians, myself included, terribly underestimate the wiles of the devil. Thinking about these things urges me to desire an even more disciplined and devoted life than I presently lead. The cost of this will mean lightening my load even more than I have. It will mean streamlining and simplifying my life even more. Paying attention closely requires less busy and more energy dedicated to watching… watching is a solitary act. It cannot be combined with other activities; needless-to-say, multitasking is a cardinal “no-no.”

I want to understand and fully appreciate the message and the mystery of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

Inspired by the writing of Austin Farrer from The Crown of the Year—

The God who saves and the God who judges is one God; It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep… What judges us is what redeems us, the love of God—

Advent is a coming, not our coming to God, but his to us. Emmanuel, God with us.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. O God, help us to be diligent watchers. Help us to wait attentively and with patient diligence. Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

Prayer

Almighty God, who came to us long ago in the birth of Jesus Christ, be born in us anew today by the power of your Holy Spirit. We offer our lives as home to you and ask for grace and strength to live as your faithful, joyful children always. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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