Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” -Matthew 24:37-44
Awakening to Presence
by David Morrison
Advent is a season of expecting the unexpected. This kind of preparation can be difficult when we’ve become too familiar with the trappings of our Christianity, mistaking them for intimacy with God. To counter this stagnation in the spiritual life, the Spirit often breaks into our lives in unimaginable ways, disrupting our routines and schedules. It might take a while to realize that these interruptions “to our lives,” are actually “our lives.” Joseph Campbell said it well: “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” Quite often, the well-planned life turns out to be an artificial life, and it’s tempting to build a façade of Christian trimming around it. A shallow reading of this gospel passage would lead one to conclude that being prepared for “that day that could catch you by surprise like a trap,” means stockpiling provisions, deciphering scripture codes, being perpetually suspicious of world leaders, and worst of all: externalizing the return of Jesus to the point that one divorces him or herself from his or her own life; as if Jesus is coming for a select few to take them out of the very world he loves and in which he is completely involved. In contrast, a contemplative reading of this passage takes the injunction to be prepared to mean to be participants in the life of the world. This kind of preparation causes one’s focus to be looking for emanations of the world that is coming shining through in the present world. The world inwardly groans and yearns to be renewed at the coming of the Lord. And so we cry in the suffering of others, but we actively wait in joy as we see even now, celebrations of God’s presence breaking into our everyday world. This kind of intentional seeing and living enables us to awaken to God’s presence in us, all around us, and especially in every person and creature we encounter.
Prayer while lighting the first candle each evening:
O Emmanuel, Jesus Christ,
Desire of every nation,
Savior of all peoples,
Come and dwell among us.