Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” -Mark 13:33-37
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 “the coming of the Lord of the house,” 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 people begin to divorce themselves from their own lives; 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 watchful and awake to mean that we are to be participants in the life of the world. This kind of watchfulness 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.