On this Eve of Advent [30NOV2013]
Readings: Psalm 137:1-6, 144 ◊ Micah 7:11-20 ◊ 1 Peter 4:7-19 ◊ Matt. 20:29-34 ◊
The Philokalia—Vol.3: Forty Texts on Watchfulness, St. Philotheos of Sinai
“In Christ it is and shall be…”
I don’t participate in the craziness that is holiday shopping. For the most part, it’s just not my thing. I don’t begrudge anyone who enjoys it, but I’ll politely abstain. Checking the news on the internet shows that I might be in the minority. Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales seem to gather people in astounding numbers; it’s truly an amazing sight to see people camping out the night before a sale begins or waiting in sub-freezing temperatures in lines that are more than a city block long. All of this really baffles me. It just seems… so distracting.
“How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a pagan land?” (Psalm 137:4)
As I shared in yesterday’s post, we are entering a season of watchfulness (nipsis). I know from experience that it can be difficult, if not near impossible, to be watchful and attentive when you are distracted. I remember times on watch when I served in the Navy; sometimes being alert and attentive, watchful, was hard. Irregular sleep, many responsibilities, occasional boredom, and the occasional chatty shipmate could make for a poor watch or lookout. The trouble with this reality is that it could be very problematic. In my case, several of the stations I was responsible for “watching” were critical to the security of the ship. If I failed to report or update contacts in the ocean or give a visual description of them, there could be life-threatening ramifications. The point of this observation is the similarity I see in my present circumstances.
34 “Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, 35 like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. 36 Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36 NLT)
This weekend marks the beginning of Advent (The Coming). Tomorrow, Sunday, is the first Sunday in Advent. This is a season of waiting and watching as we anticipate and prepare for the coming of our Lord and Savior King, Jesus. Being watchful as we wait will not be easy. Everything around us speeds up this time of year. There will be plays, concerts, parties, shopping, decorating, year’s end business details being finalized, traveling, and a myriad of other festive hustle and bustle. It will not be easy to settle in to a watchful state of mind.
“Save me! Rescue me from the power of my enemies. Their mouths are full of lies; they swear to tell the truth, but they lie instead.” (Psalm 144:11)
The media, the news, TV, internet, and the sea of voices around me will all tell me not to be a Scrooge and to get into the Christmas spirit… I think to myself; “I am.” I am readying my heart and my home for the coming of the Messiah… this is the Christ mas spirit. I think, how would we behave if we really expected that Jesus was going to physically arrive for a visit at my home? I think I would be cleaning house, I think I would want to have his favorite things on hand for when he arrived. I believe I would want to be my best self… I would want to look my best, smell my best, wear my best clothes, be perfectly groomed, ensure that my heart was pure and my conscience was clear, so everything was as perfect as it could possibly be for his coming. Then, as the day drew closer, I would find myself waiting…watching… anticipating as I reconsidered last minute details. Finally, on the day of his arriving, I would probably find my post at one of the windows looking out at my drive waiting until I saw Jesus walking or driving to my front door. This is the way I think things would really go down, if the circumstances were that Jesus was really coming to my home. I think this is how we should enter into the season of Advent. I believe the preparation and anticipation of his coming should be something we engage in a real and physical way. I think it is good for our hearts, minds, souls, and strength. We need recalibrating. More busy, hustle and bustle… we do not need.
“The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers… Trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.” (1 Peter 4:7, 19)
The people of Jerusalem had been waiting for hundreds of years for Jesus when he arrived. They were tired people. They had been conquered several times, taken into captivity, allowed to return to their home, and occupied by their oppressing conquerors. Hustle and bustle of foreign cultures surrounded them. Distractions and foreign gods competed for their attention… yet they knew their history and tradition taught them a Messiah would be coming—arriving. They were to watch for signs of his arriving. They were to be ready for his coming. When the fullness of time came, the majority of God’s people were not ready to see God and they missed him.
Jesus asked them; “What do you want me to do for you? They replied; ‘We want to see…’“ (Matt. 20:29-34)
I try to live these days in the slow lane. I believe in maintaining comfortable and expansive margin all around me. There are times, it is true, when things get a bit hectic for me, but these are the exceptions and not my normal. In this way, I can stay at a high-degree of readiness as I wait for and watch for the coming of my Lord. Even in the heightened state of my wait, I plan to slow down and become even more watchful in the coming days. I want to wade meticulously through my days as one who is preparing for the Omnipotent Creator King, who is coming to the home of me. I wish to ensure that I’m watching this way and ready for that day.
“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist…destroys his own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of his own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (1968)
Prayer for the First Sunday of Advent
Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Glory be to God the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end. Amen.
“In Christ it is and shall be…”